UNAMA: Civilian Casualties in April Higher Compared to Last Year

  • Date of Publication : 20/05/2020 at 05:21 GMT

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has raised deep concerns over a surge in the number of civilian casualties in the country and has urged the Afghan warring factions to end hostilities and engage in intra-Afghan talks.

The UN envoy called on the Afghan warring sides to respect international laws and protect the civilians.

“Rising numbers of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, with a disregard for international law aimed at protecting civilians from harm, underscore the urgent need for parties to halt the fighting and to re-focus on starting intra-Afghan peace negotiations,” UNAMA said in a report on Tuesday amid escalating violence in multiple frons across the nation.

“UNAMA’s latest preliminary figures indicate a trend of escalating civilian casualties in April from operations conducted by both the Taliban and the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF). There is also grave concern about levels of violence in the first half of May, including recent attacks claimed by Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP),” the report said.

According to the report, the Taliban were responsible for 208 civilian casualties in April which shows an increase of 25 percent in comparison to April 2019 and at similar levels to March 2020.

Based on the report, civilian casualties attributed to the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) for April 2020 numbered 172 civilians, an increase of 38 percent compared to April 2019, and 37 percent higher than March 2020.

On the recent attack on a hospital in Kabul, the report said: “The United Nations is deeply concerned by both the increase in civilian harm and the striking deterioration of parties’ respect for international humanitarian law, demonstrated by the recent shocking attacks on healthcare facilities and threats to healthcare workers, failures to take all feasible precautions in conducting airstrikes, and the use of large amounts of explosives in civilian-populated areas.”

“I call for a halt to the fighting and for parties to respect humanitarian law that is there to protect civilians,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

“Parties have committed to finding a peaceful solution and should protect the lives of all Afghans and not jeopardize people’s hope for an end to the war,” said Lyons, who is also head of UNAMA. “Intra-Afghan peace negotiations need to start as soon as possible.”

The report states that since April 1, in addition to the unclaimed attack on a hospital in Kabul last week, UNAMA has documented the abduction of 15 healthcare workers by the Taliban as well as a threat to healthcare workers and the confiscation of medical supplies by the ANSF.

“Medical personnel and facilities have special protection from attack. Any incidents affecting people, places and supplies necessary for healthcare provision can have serious and wide-ranging consequences, particularly during the COVID-19 crisis. Intentional attacks on civilians and civilian objects, including medical facilities or protected personnel, may amount to war crimes,” UNAMA said.

Major incidents documented by UNAMA so far in May include:

• The attack on a Kabul hospital on May 12, targeting its maternity ward, which resulted in at least 24 civilians killed, almost all of whom were female patients, leaving many newborn babies motherless.

• A Daesh-claimed suicide attack at a funeral in Nangarhar on May 12, which resulted in at least 19 civilians killed and many more injured.

• A Taliban-claimed suicide truck bomb attack on May 14 in downtown Gardez, which injured at least 33 civilians.

• An ANDSF airstrike in Balkh on May 11, which killed nine civilians and injured 13 while they were being forced by the Taliban to destroy a road to block ANDSF.

Such attacks highlight the need for all parties to the conflict to respect international humanitarian law, including the principles of precaution, distinction and proportionality. the report said.

The UN calls for an end to the war in Afghanistan as the scale of violence and clashes between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces has increased in various areas with a massive human toll inflicted on Afghan civilians, security members and infrastructure.