UN: Afghanistan civilian casualties reach record high in first half of year
UN: Afghanistan civilian casualties reach record high in first half of year

Civilian casualties have reached a record high [press release] in the first half of 2016, with 5,166 civilians recorded killed or maimed, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website] reported [text, PDF] Monday. More than a third of those have been children, according to the report, and the total number of civilian casualties since 2009 has now climbed to 63,934, including 22,941 deaths and 40,993 injured. Remarking on the latest figures, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said:

The violations laid bare in this report set in motion a cascade of potential human rights abuses that stretch from Afghanistan to the Mediterranean and beyond, as so many Afghans are driven to seek refuge abroad, taking enormous risks. … Parties to the conflict must cease the deliberate targeting of civilians and the use of heavy weaponry in civilian-populated areas. There must be an end to the prevailing impunity enjoyed by those responsible for civilian casualties—no matter who they are.

Among the rights violations documented in the report are the use of children in armed conflict, sexual violence, summary executions and the targeting of journalists and rights defenders. The report calls for justice for victims and accountability for perpetrators.

Civilian casualties continue to be a primary issue in the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan. Over the weekend UN Special Representative to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said that the recent suicide bombings in Kabul amounted to a war crime [JURIST report]. Last month three Taliban gunmen attacked [JURIST report] a court building in eastern Afghanistan, killing seven people including a newly appointed chief prosecutor. In February UNAMA reported [JURIST report] that civilian casualties in Afghanistan had reached a record high 11,000 in 2015. In November the US Department of Defense [official website] and Pentagon officials completed their investigation [JURIST report] into the October 3 bombing of the Doctors Without Borders (MSF) [advocacy website] hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan, and announced [statement] that it was an “avoidable accident caused primarily by human error.” In October MSF called for an independent investigation [JURIST report] into the attack by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission. Also in October Zeid called for an investigation [JURIST report] into the Kunduz hospital attack and for the results of an investigation to be made public. Several days prior to the hospital attack, the UN rights leader also requested that all parties in the Taliban attack in Kunduz attempt to keep civilians out of harm [JURIST report]. In August the UN said that a new report shows a significant increase in the number of women and children being hurt or killed [JURIST report] in Afghanistan’s war against the Taliban and other insurgents.