Thursday, January 14, 2010

Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan Rise to New High in 2009

New statistics released by the UN mission in Afghanistan today showed that 2009 proved to be the deadliest year yet for civilians since the fall of the Taliban government in 2001. According to their figures, at least 5,978 civilians were killed and injured in 2009. Afghans in the southern part of the country, where the conflict is the most intense, were the most severely affected.

The UN mission recorded 2,412 civilian deaths during 2009, up by 14 per cent from 2008 when the mission recorded 2,118 civilian deaths. Of the 2,412 deaths reported last year, 1,630 (67%) were attributed to anti-Government elements while 596 (25%) were attributed to pro-Government forces. The remaining 186 deaths (8%) could not be attributed to any of the conflicting parties as they died as a result of cross fire or by unexploded ordinance.

It is worth noting from the above figures that the ratio of injured to dead is only 1.5, indicating that substantial under reporting of injuries has almost certainly occurred.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in conjunction with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), called on all sides of Afghanistan's conflict to uphold their obligations under international law and minimize the impact of fighting on civilians.

Ms Norah Niland, Chief Human Rights Officer said called for determined efforts by the insurgency to put into effect the Taliban "Code of Conduct" that calls on them to protect the lives of civilians.

She also said "However despite positive trends, actions by pro-Government forces continued to take an adverse toll on civilians; we recorded 359 civilians killed during aerial attacks, which constitute 61 per cent of the number of civilian deaths attributed to pro-Government forces. International and Afghan security forces also conducted a large number of search and seizure operations. These often involved excessive use of force, destruction of property and cultural insensitivity, particularly towards women."

[UNAMA] [Full Report (PDF)]