Afghanistan: UN child rights official voices alarm at high civilian death toll

27 August 2008

The United Nations envoy for children and armed conflict has strongly condemned the deaths of a large number of civilians, mostly children, as a result of recent military operations in Afghanistan.

Yesterday the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported that an investigation by its human rights team found that some 90 civilians were killed, including 60 children, during operations carried out by international and Afghan military forces on 21 August in Shindand district in Afghanistan’s western Herat province.

“I am really alarmed by the number of casualties caused by this air strike and other similar military operations,” the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, Radhika Coomaraswamy, said in a statement. “Children are bearing the brunt of this conflict and also experiencing physical and psychological trauma.”

Echoing the call made yesterday by Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Ms. Coomaraswamy reminded the international and Afghan military forces that “they must review their operational procedures to avoid such tragic events from reoccurring.”

Ms. Coomaraswamy raised the issue of civilian casualties with the leadership of the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) and the United States-led Operation Enduring Freedom during a recent visit to Afghanistan, stressing to them the need to minimize collateral damage with clear directions and procedures.

“It is important to put in place measures to prevent the excesses, to have prompt investigations and where necessary to pay adequate compensation,” she had stated at the end of that visit.


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