Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

UNAMA's Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict reports document attacks against civilians in Afghanistan and include recommendations to protect civilians and civilian communitiess.

Watch a one-minute animation about the latest 2015 report on Facebook: English, Dari and Pashto.

Read UNAMA's previous reports on protection of civilians.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a civilian?

A: International humanitarian law defines “civilians” as those persons who are not members of military or paramilitary forces or fighters of organized armed groups of a party to a conflict. Civilians may lose protection against attacks for such time as they take direct part in hostilities.

The Midyear Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict documents attacks against categories of people whose regular activities do not amount to direct participation in hostilities, including public servants and government workers, teachers, health clinic workers, election workers and others involved in public service delivery, political figures and office-holders, and employees of NGOs, as well as civilian police personnel who are not directly participating in hostilities and are not involved in counter-insurgency operations.

Q: In what way are civilians being harmed as a result of the conflict?

A: The report identifies multiple sources of civilian casualties including ground engagements, Improvised Explosive Devices, suicide and complex attacks, targeted killings, explosive remnants of war, aerial operations, summary executions and cross-border shelling.

Q: Who are the parties in this conflict?

A: The report divides parties causing civilian casualties into three categories: Anti-Government Elements, Government of Afghanistan and International Military Forces.

Q: Why does UNAMA issue the report?

A: The report is prepared pursuant to the UNAMA mandate under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2210 (2015) 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, in particular those regarding the full enjoyment by women of their human rights.

Security Council resolution 2210 (2015) recognizes the importance of ongoing monitoring and reporting to the United Nations Security Council on the situation of civilians in the armed conflict, particularly on women and children.

The report includes recommendations to the parties to support their efforts to protect civilians and civilian communities, and prevent civilian casualties.

Q: Are the figures in the report reliable?

A: UNAMA investigates reports of civilian casualties by conducting on-site investigations, wherever possible, and consulting a broad range of sources and types of information that are evaluated for their credibility and reliability. In undertaking investigation and analysis of each incident, UNAMA exercises due diligence to corroborate and cross-check information from as wide a range of sources as possible including accounts of witnesses, victims and directly-affected persons, military actors (including the Government of Afghanistan and international military forces), local village/district and provincial authorities, religious and community leaders, and other interlocutors.

For each incident involving a civilian casualty, UNAMA requires at least three types of sources. Wherever possible, investigations are based on the primary accounts of victims and/or witnesses of the incident and on-site investigations. On some occasions, primarily due to security-related constraints affecting access, this form of investigation is not possible. In such instances, UNAMA relies on a range of techniques to gain information through reliable networks, again through as wide a range of sources as possible that are evaluated for credibility and reliability.

Q: What is UNAMA doing to protect civilians?

A: 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 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.

Q: What is the legal framework of the report?

A: The legal framework used for the report includes international human rights law, international humanitarian and criminal law and binding United Nations Security Council resolutions on Afghanistan. All contain obligations relevant to protection of civilians during armed conflict in Afghanistan.

Q: Who makes the report?

A: The report was prepared by the Human Rights Unit of UNAMA and has been reviewed and received technical input from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.