Afghanistan: civilian casualties reach record high

Civilian casualties have reached a record high in the first half of 2016, with 5,166 civilians recorded killed or maimed, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported (PDF) July 25. 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.

From Jurist, July 25. Used with permission.

Note: While the report found that "anti-Government elements" remain responsible for the majority—60%—of civilian casualties, there was an increase in the number of civilians killed and injured by "pro-Government forces" between January and June this year. During this period, UNAMA documented 1,180 civilian casualties attributable to pro-government forces, which is 23% of the total so far this year, but a 47% increase compared to the same period last year, primarily as a result of ground engagements.