UN URGES PARTIES TO HEED AFGHAN CALL: ZERO CIVIL LIFE
KABUL – The conflict in Afghanistan continues to have a devastating impact on civilians, with the latest UN update released today reporting 3,812 civilian casualties (1,366 dead and 2,446 injured) in the first half of 2019.
As the number of civilians killed and injured is down 27 percent from the same period in 2018 – the year that saw a record number of civilian casualties recorded – the UN notes with concern disturbing trends such as the 27 percent increase in civilian deaths in the second quarter of 2019 compared to the first.
The United Nations welcomes the reduction in the number of civilian casualties between January 1 and June 30, 2019, but continues to view the level of harm to civilians as shocking and unacceptable. UNAMA acknowledges that the parties have announced efforts to reduce civilian casualties, but they are insufficient. More must be done.
The United Nations supports the demand of all parties to reduce the number of civilian casualties to zero, formulated in the joint declaration of the Afghan participants during the intra-Afghan dialogue of July 7 and 8, 2019, held in Doha.
“Everyone heard loud and clear the message from Afghan delegates during the Doha talks: ‘Reduce civilian casualties to zero!’ ”Said Tadamichi Yamamoto, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan. “We urge all parties to heed this imperative, to heed the call of the Afghans for immediate action to be taken to reduce the terrible suffering inflicted,” added Yamamoto, who is also the head of UNAMA.
Anti-government elements (AGEs) continued to claim the majority of civilian casualties. However, civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces (PGFs) exceeded those caused by AGEs for the second quarter in a row.
Ground engagements remained the main cause of civilian casualties, causing a third of the overall total, although down 16% from the first half of 2018. The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), mainly in non-suicide attacks, was the second leading cause, accounting for 28 percent of the total. Civilian casualties from air operations amounted to 14 percent.
UNAMA attributed 52% of all civilian casualties to AGEs, 38% attributed to the Taliban, 11% to Daesh/ Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), and 3% to unidentified EGMs.
The number of civilian casualties attributed to AGEs decreased by 43% in the first half of 2019 compared to 2018. This is mainly due to a reduction in the number of civilian casualties due to suicide IEDs. Civilian casualties attributed to FGP increased by 31%, mainly due to an increase in air and search operations.
From January 1 to June 30, 2019, the AGE claimed 1,968 civilian casualties (531 dead and 1,437 injured). There has been a sharp drop in the number of civilian casualties due to suicide bombings and complex attacks, especially by Daesh/ ISKP.
UNAMA has recorded 985 civilian casualties (306 dead and 679 wounded) in AGE attacks that deliberately targeted civilians, including government officials, tribal leaders, aid workers, religious scholars, mullahs and places of worship and culture. UNAMA reiterates that civilians not directly participating in hostilities, including civilian officials, and civilian objects can never be the target of attacks. UNAMA urges EGMs to apply a definition of civil and civilian object in accordance with international humanitarian law.
In the first six months of 2019, UNAMA attributed 1,397 civilian casualties (717 dead and 680 injured) to pro-government forces, a 31% increase over the corresponding period in 2018. FGP caused 37 % of all civilian casualties in the first semester. half of 2019 (18% by Afghan National Security Forces, 12% by International Military Forces, 2% by pro-government armed groups and the remainder at indeterminate or multiple TFPs).
Air operations resulted in 519 civilian casualties (363 dead and 156 wounded), including 150 children (89 dead and 61 wounded). This represents a 39% increase in the total number of civilian casualties due to this tactic. As the number of injured has declined, the number of civilians killed has more than doubled, underscoring the deadly nature of this tactic. UNAMA continues to express its concern at the increase in damage to civilians caused by air operations, in particular those carried out in support of Afghan forces on the ground and strikes against civilian structures.
UNAMA attributed 83% of civilian casualties resulting from air operations to international military forces, 9% to the Afghan Air Force and the remaining 8% to undetermined FGP.
Women continue to be disproportionately affected by the armed conflict in Afghanistan. Until June 30, 2019, the conflict claimed 430 women victims (144 dead and 286 injured), a decrease of 22% compared to the same period in 2018.
Child victims accounted for nearly a third of the total civilian casualties, with 327 dead and 880 injured. Children continue to represent the vast majority – 84% – of all civilian casualties from explosive remnants of war.
“Parties to the conflict may offer different explanations for recent trends, each designed to justify its own military tactics,” said Richard Bennett, UNAMA chief of human rights. “The fact remains that only a determined effort to avoid harm to civilians, not only by respecting international humanitarian law but also by reducing the intensity of the fighting, will reduce the suffering of Afghan civilians.