Parties to the conflict must abide by international humanitarian and human rights laws on protection of civilians, say Kandahar panelists

29 Apr 2019

Parties to the conflict must abide by international humanitarian and human rights laws on protection of civilians, say Kandahar panelists

KANDAHAR - The protection of civilians is the obligation of all parties to the conflict, stressed panelists at a UN-backed televised discussion in southern province of Kandahar.

They made an emotional appeal for the conflict to be brought to an end so that Afghan families could be spared the painful frequency of having to carry their relatives to rest.

Human rights activists, Ulema and civil society representative called for dialogue and negotiations to lead to peace.

One of the speakers and a civil society activist, Abdul Baqi Nazari said, “There are several mitigating measures that could be taken to help prevent civilian casualties they should avoid fighting in the areas where civilians could be harmed.

Baqi added that the impact of the killing or maiming of civilians from the conflict should not be underestimated, pointing out the lasting damage and suffering caused to families and communities.

Another panelist, the regional head of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), Fakhrudin Fayez, emphasized that parties to the conflict must abide by national and international laws and conventions which are intended to protect civilians in armed conflict.

Fayez said, “I wish that one day I take part in a debate where I do not have to refer to the statistics of civilian casualties. Civilian casualties are worrisome for everyone and the AIHRC condemns such acts, calling upon parties to take measures to protect civilian lives and their property.”

The panelists highlighted Islamic teachings in which civilians are protected by Islamic laws. “Islam says, killing a person is like killing the whole humanity,” said Mawlavi Faizani, the head of Kandahar Ulema Council.

The audience at the debate – university students from faculties of journalism, political science and law, human rights activists and defenders - shared their concerns about the widespread impact of the armed conflict on their daily lives. All the participants called upon the parties to stop killing civilians and ensure respect for legal obligations and Sharia law during the fighting.

In the 2018 Protection of Civilians Report, published in February, UNAMA documented a total of 10,993 civilian casualties - 3,804 deaths and 7,189 injured.  Among the dead were 927 children, the highest recorded number of boys and girls killed in the conflict in a single year.

The southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand have been heavily affected. The conflict continues to undermine civilians’ access to education, health, and a range of other human rights and basic services. It has forced thousands of families to leave their homes and become internally displaced while turning the situation into a humanitarian crisis.

The TV debate organized by UNAMA southern regional office in Kandahar was aired by Hewad TV and Radio –reaching audiences of around 450,000 in Kandahar province. The broadcasts were part of a larger TV and radio series in Kandahar, Nimroz, Helmand and Zabul provinces aimed at raising awareness about the importance of protection of civilians in armed conflict. In total, the outreach campaign in southern provinces will reach to an estimated 1.5 million listeners and viewers who also have an opportunity to engage into discussions on the topic on partner radio and TV social media.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and the people of Afghanistan as a political mission that provides 'good offices' among other key services. 'Good offices' are diplomatic steps UN takes publicly and in private, drawing on its independence, impartiality and integrity, to prevent international disputes from arising, escalating or spreading.

UNAMA also promotes coherent development support by the international community; assists the process of peace and reconciliation; monitors and promotes human rights and the protection of civilians in armed conflict; promotes good governance; and encourages regional cooperation.