Ahead of a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday, the United Nations mission in the country today drew attention to the “critical need” for all parties to the conflict to do more to protect civilians.
“Afghan women, children and men have long paid a disproportionate price in terms of lives lost and blood spilled, particularly as a result of attacks by anti-government elements,” the UN Assistance in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a news release.
“UNAMA has repeatedly noted that it is time for anti-government elements to live up to their public statements recognizing their duty to protect civilians and to take action to make sure that their attacks do not target civilian,” the Mission added.
Last week, 214 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in 48 separate incidents in Afghanistan, with anti-government elements responsible for 98 per cent of these civilian casualties, according to UNAMA. Two suicide attacks alone – one in Khost and another by Qargha Lake – resulted in the deaths of at least 38 Afghan civilians, with 38 others wounded.
“Anti-government elements have consistently used these tactics in locations frequented by ordinary citizens,” UNAMA said. “They have also directly targeted civilians, resulting in a disproportionate number of civilian deaths and injuries – all of which is in clear violation of international humanitarian law.”
Earlier this year, an annual report on the protection of civilians in the Central Asian country, produced by UNAMA and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), noted that the number of civilian casualties resulting from the conflict there had risen for a fifth consecutive year. It blamed a change in tactics by the Taliban and other anti-Government forces for the higher death toll.
Since 2007, at least 11,864 civilians have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict between the Government, backed by international forces, and the Taliban and other insurgent groups, the report had said.
The Security Council will hold a meeting on Afghanistan tomorrow, at which it will consider Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s latest quarterly report on the country.
On Monday, the Council held an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Speaking at the debate, Secretary-General Ban cited recent developments across the world as examples – including Afghanistan, in relation to which he mentioned that UNAMA had reported a rise in civilian deaths. He also drew attention to the key role of the Council in dealing with the issue of the protection of civilians, while urging new approaches to be considered.