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Afghanistan civilian casualty figures drop for the first time in 6 years

19 February 2013 – The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan’s armed conflict dropped for the first time since the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) started documenting the trend in 2007, said a UN report released in Kabul today.
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The “Afghanistan Annual Report 2012: Protection Of Civilians In Armed Conflict” registered a 12 per cent decrease in the overall civilian casualties in 2012 as compared to the previous year.

However, the 71-page report also recorded a staggering 700 per cent increase in casualties of Government employees and 108 per cent increase in the number of targeted killings by insurgents.

In 2012, UNAMA recorded 7,559 civilian casualties - 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries. In total, 81 per cent of civilian casualties were attributed to anti-Government elements, 8 per cent to pro-Government forces and 11 per cent could not be attributed to any party to the conflict.

The total number of casualties documented in 2011 was 7,837 (3,131 deaths and 4,706 injuries).

The report attributed the reduction in civilian casualties to four factors: fewer deaths and injuries of civilians from ground engagement among parties to the conflict; decline in suicide attacks; less number of aerial operations; and other measures taken by pro-Government forces to minimize harm to civilians.

“The decrease in civilian casualties UNAMA documented in 2012 is very much welcome,” said Ján Kubiš, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Afghanistan and the head of UNAMA. He however regretted that the human cost of the conflict remained “unacceptable”.

AGE - Anti-Government Elements
PGF - Pro-Government Forces 

The annual report, prepared by UNAMA in coordination with the Geneva-based UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), also documented a 20 per cent increase in the number of Afghan women and girls killed and injured in the conflict.

“It is the tragic reality that most Afghan women and girls were killed or injured while engaging in their everyday activities,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights section of UNAMA.

The report is prepared pursuant to UNAMA’s mandate under UN Security Council Resolution 2041 (2012) “to monitor the situation of civilians, to coordinate efforts to ensure their protection, to promote accountability, and to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights provisions of the Afghan Constitution and international treaties to which Afghanistan is a State party.”

UNAMA undertakes a range of activities aimed at minimizing the impact of the armed conflict on civilians including: independent and impartial monitoring of incidents involving loss of life or injury to civilians; advocacy activities to strengthen protection of civilians affected by the armed conflict; and, initiatives to promote compliance with international humanitarian and human rights law, and the Constitution and laws of Afghanistan among all parties to the conflict.

Indiscriminate and unlawful use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by anti-Government elements remains the single biggest killer of civilians in Afghanistan, said the report, adding that civilian casualties from IEDs increased by three per cent in 2012.

Speaking at the launch of the report in Kabul, UN Special Representative Kubiš warned that the use of pressure-plate IEDs by insurgents “indiscriminately hitting the citizens” could amount to a “war crime”. “This is a war crime and people will be held responsible in the future for this war crime,” he said.

In 2012, UNAMA noted numerous statements from the Taliban, the main insurgent group in Afghanistan, to protect civilians. “Yet, the situation on the ground has not improved,” said the report.

Mr. Kubiš renewed his call to the Taliban “not to attack civilians, enforce their public pledges among all Taliban fighters to protect civilians, revise their definition of civilian and lawful targets in compliance with international humanitarian law, and stop using suicide bombers, and illegal victim-activated and other IEDs indiscriminately”.

The steep increase in the deliberate targeting of civilians perceived to be supporting the Government demonstrates another grave violation of international humanitarian law, said Mr. Kubiš. “Particularly appalling is the use of suicide attacks including those carried out by brainwashed children to murder civilians which is also a clear breach of the norms of Islam.”

Stressing that UNAMA engages in “critical dialogue, sometimes tough dialogue” with the Government and the international military to improve the situation of civilians, the UN Special Representative said, “We are ready to engage with anti-Government forces, with the Taliban, in dialogue on human rights and humanitarian issues on protection of civilians.”

Ms. Gagnon said Afghanistan saw a “disturbing trend” in 2012 with increased activities and reemergence of illegal armed groups, particularly in the north and northeast of the country.

Ms. Gagnon said that while fewer Afghan civilians were killed in the armed conflict in 2012, conflict–related violence continued to seriously threaten the lives and well-being of thousands of Afghans. “We are again calling on all concerned to redouble their efforts, increase their efforts, to protect the civilians to take concrete acts, to stop the killing and injuring in this year and beyond,” she added.

By UNAMA Kabul

Related links:

1. Fewer casualties caused by pro-Goverment forces, increase from anti-Government forces

2. Conflict continues to take a devastating toll on civilians - UN report

3. UNAMA PRESS RELEASE: Civilian casualties rise for fifth consecutive year in Afghan conflict

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