Afghanistan: Civilian casualties in armed conflict decline

Sunday, February 24, 2013
UN officials addressing a press conference in Afghan capital
[PHOTO: UNifeed] 
Kabul: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan's armed conflict decreased for the first time in six years, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has said while releasing its 2012 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict prepared in coordination with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan (UNAMA) while noting that the mission was prepared to "engage with anti Government forces, with the Taliban, on humanitarian issues on protection of civilians, stressed that "We cannot accept that civilians are being killed by improvised explosive devises (IED). We cannot accept that increasingly suicide bombers including brain washed children are used to kill civilians."

The report attributed the reduction in civilian casualties in 2012 to fewer deaths and injuries of civilians from ground engagement among parties to the conflict, a decline in suicide attacks by Anti-Government Elements, reduced numbers of aerial operations, and other measures taken by Pro-Government Forces to minimize harm to civilians.

Georgette Gagnon, UNAMA's Director of Human rights told journalists that n 2012, UNAMA had documented 7,559 civilian casualties, 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries. This year for the first time in six years, Gagnon said that "we recorded a decline in civilian deaths of 12 per cent."

She also noted that the reduction in civilian deaths came from four things, "ground engagement between the parties caused fewer casualties. There was a decline in suicide attacks by Anti-Government Elements. There was a reduced number of aerial operations by international military forces, and there were measures taken by both the Afghan forces and international forces to reduce harm to civilians."

The report found that women and girls continued to suffer enormously from the effects of armed conflict. UNAMA documented 864 female casualties (301 deaths and 563 injuries) in 2012.

Gagnon said that there was increase "of 20 per cent of women and girls killed in the conflict".

Throughout 2012, UNAMA received mixed reports about the impact of the Afghan Local Police (ALP) on civilian protection. The majority of communities from 94 districts with ALP presence reported improvement in the security environment; however, UNAMA documented inconsistent compliance with policies guiding the ALP recruitment and vetting process, and serious human rights violations committed by ALP in some districts.

Gagnon said that while the decrease in civilian casualties was very much welcome, "civilians and civilian communities continue to be threatened - their lives, livelihoods and well-being. And we attribute this to increasing threats associated with the presence and re-emergence of a number of armed groups across the country".

According to the report the presence and re-emergence of these armed groups, some aligned with the local Government and others operating independently, particularly in the north and northeast regions, may be linked to an increased presence of Anti-Government Elements in remote districts with local armed groups emerging to fight against or protect communities from insurgents, security gaps relating to transition of military forces, political instability and general insecurity. -UNifeed
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