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Taliban should face war crimes charges over civilian casualties: AI

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Tuesday called for the Taliban [CFR backgrounder] and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan to be tried for war crimes [press release] for targeting civilians. The statement was released following the 2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict [text; UN News Centre report] from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website]. The report found that in the first six months of 2010 there had been 3,268 civilian deaths and injuries, 76 percent of which were attributed to the Taliban and allied groups fighting NATO forces and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai [official profile]. This constitutes a significant shift from 2009, where NATO accounted for just under half of all civilian casualties in the country, marking a 95 percent increase in civilian casualties attributed to the Taliban and related groups. The report also found the number of child and women casualties to have risen 55 and 6 percent, respectively, over the same period in 2009. This data prompted AI to call for the investigation and prosecution of the Taliban and other responsible groups for war crimes:

The Taleban and other insurgents are becoming far bolder in their systematic killing of civilians. Targeting of civilians is a war crime, plain and simple. The Afghan people are crying out for justice, and have a right to accountability and compensation. There is no practical justice system in Afghanistan now that can address the lack of accountability. So the Afghan government should ask the International Criminal Court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity that may have been committed by all parties to the conflict.
Afghanistan is a party to the Rome Statute [text, PDF], giving the International Criminal Court (ICC) [official website] jurisdiction over war crimes committed on Afghan territory.

Both sides of the conflict have faced criticism over civilian casualties from human rights groups and activists in recent years. In March, Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called on the Afghan government to retract a law granting amnesty [JURIST report] for war crimes and human rights abuses committed by the Taliban and others prior to December 2001. The law contradicted a plan adopted by the Afghan government [JURIST report] in 2005 to investigate war crimes and human rights violations committed while the Taliban controlled the government. Last month, Wikileaks [website] founder Julian Assange [Telegraph profile] said that the Afghan War Diaries [materials], a compilation of 91,000 documents leaked to the organization on the US war effort in Afghanistan, may provide evidence of war crimes [JURIST report] committed by US forces. In May 2009, HRW called on the US government to make "fundamental changes to reduce civilian casualties" [JURIST report] in Afghanistan after attacks last week reportedly left more than 140 civilians dead.

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