A large increase in civilian casualties has been reported by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) during the first six months of 2010. From 1 January to 30 June 2010, UNAMA Human Rights Unit documented 3,268 civilian casualties including 1,271 deaths and 1,997 injuries. It is worth noting that the very low ratio of injuries to deaths suggests that injuries are seriously under recorded. However, the increase is more than that estimated by other bodies. [UNAMA, Reuters]
Two major changes in the overall causation of fatalities have been reported by UNAMA. Firstly, there has been a 30 per cent decrease in civilian casualties caused by the US coalition compared to the same period in 2009, reflecting growing implementation of ISAF’s July 2009 Tactical Directive that regulates the use of air strikes and other measures to reduce civilian casualties. Secondly, there has been a 31 per cent increase in conflict-related Afghan civilian casualties caused by the Taliban and other elements of the armed opposition.
“Afghan children and women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this conflict. They are being killed and injured in their homes and communities in greater numbers than ever before,” said Staffan de Mistura, Special Representative of the Secretary-General.
Analysis by UNAMA's Human Rights Unit identified two critical developments that accounted for the increased civilian casualty burden. There was a greater use of larger and more sophisticated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) throughout the country and the number of civilians assassinated and executed by the armed opposition rose by more than 95 per cent. Southern Afghanistan showed the largest increase in civilian casualties during their reporting period.
UNAMA issued the following recommendations:
• The Taliban should withdraw all orders and statements calling for the killing of civilians; and, the Taliban and other AGEs should end the use of IEDs and suicide attacks, comply with international humanitarian law, cease acts of intimidation and killing including assassination, execution and abduction, fully respect citizens’ freedom of movement and stop using civilians as human shields.
• International military forces should make more transparent their investigation and reporting on civilian casualties including on accountability; maintain and strengthen directives restricting aerial attacks and the use of night raids; coordinate investigation and reporting of civilian casualties with the Afghan Government to improve protection and accountability; improve compensation processes; and, improve transparency around any harm to civilians caused by Special Forces operations.
• The Afghan Government should create a public body to lead its response to major civilian casualty incidents and its interaction with international military forces and other key actors, ensure investigations include forensic components, ensure transparent and timely compensation to victims; and, improve accountability including discipline or prosecution for any Afghan National Security Forces personnel who unlawfully cause death or injury to civilians or otherwise violate the rights of Afghan citizens.