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Civilian casualties lessen first time in 6 years: UN

20 February, 2013

KABUL: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan’s armed conflict decreased for the first time in six years, a UN report said Tuesday.

The report "2012 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict" prepared and released by United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Feb. 19 recorded a 12 per cent drop in civilian deaths and a marginal increase in civilian injuries compared with 2011.

"UNAMA recorded 7,559 civilian casualties - 2,754 civilian deaths and 4,805 civilian injuries - in 2012.

Over the past six years, 14,728 Afghan civilians have lost their lives in the conflict."

The report attributed the reduction in civilian casualties in 2012 to fewer deaths and injuries of civilians from ground engagement among parties to the conflict, a decline in suicide attacks by Anti-Government Elements, reduced numbers of aerial operations, and other measures taken by Pro-Government Forces to minimize harm to civilians.

At the same time, however, UNAMA observed increasing threats to civilians in 2012 associated with the presence and re-emergence of armed groups, particularly in the north and northeast regions of Afghanistan.

"Civilians also faced an increase in threats, intimidation and interference with their rights to education, health, justice and freedom of movement from Anti-Government Elements," the report said.

"The decrease in civilian casualties UNAMA documented in 2012 is very much welcome," said Ján Kubiš, United Nations Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan in a statement.

"Indiscriminate and unlawful use of improvised explosive devices by Anti-Government Elements remains the single biggest killer of civilians. Steep increases in the deliberate targeting of civilians perceived to be supporting the Government demonstrates another grave violation of international humanitarian law.

The report said anti-government elements increasingly targeted civilians throughout the country and carried out attacks without regard for human life, adding in total, 81 per cent of civilian casualties in 2012 were attributed to Anti-Government Elements.

"Eight per cent of civilian casualties resulted from the operations of Pro-Government Forces. Eleven per cent of total civilian casualties could not be attributed to any party to the conflict, it said.

UNAMA documented 6,131 civilian casualties (2,179 civilian deaths and 3,952 injuries) caused by Anti-Government Elements, an increase of nine per cent over 2011.

The UNAMA report noted that improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by Anti-Government Elements were the greatest threat to civilians in 2012, causing 2,531 civilian casualties with 868 civilians killed and 1,663 injured in 782 separate incidents.

"Civilian casualties from targeted killings by Anti-Government Elements increased by 108 per cent compared with 2011, to 1,077 comprising 698 civilian deaths and 379 injuries.

Civilians perceived to be supporting the Government, civilian Government employees, religious leaders, tribal elders and persons involved in peace and reconciliation efforts were targeted. Of these, killings and injuries to civilian Government employees increased by a staggering 700 per cent."

"I welcome strong statements by the Taliban leadership urging its fighters to protect civilians but without enforcing these directives on the ground all that remains are only words," said Special Representative Kubiš.

UNAMA noted an improvement in the Government’s efforts to hold ALP members accountable but ALP continued to commit human rights violations with impunity in several areas.

"With the ALP expanding in the future to 45,000 members, it is imperative that the Ministry of Interior strengthen local oversight and accountability of the ALP," the report said.

UNAMA highlights that the armed conflict in Afghanistan continued to affect ordinary Afghans in ways not revealed by the statistics on deaths and injuries.


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