The United Nations Assistance Mission (UNAMA) in Afghanistan has urged the Afghan government and the Taliban to take measures to safeguard the lives of innocent civilians. As per the UNAMA biannual report, between January and June, preliminary figures indicate more than 800 civilians have lost their lives in different incidents. The Taliban was responsible for half of these casualties.
“Targeting civilians deliberately violates international humanitarian law which amounts to war crimes,” the UN mission said.
In a recent spate of at least 56 violent incidents, members of Afghanistan’s civil society, religious leaders, healthcare workers, members of the judiciary, civil society activists, non-governmental organizations and journalists have been deliberately attacked.
“The use of indirect fire during ground engagements in civilian-populated areas has caused roughly 25 percent of civilian casualties in the second quarter of 2020,” the report said.
According to the UNAMA secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, it has taken enormous work and some brave decisions to reach the point of being on the verge of unprecedented intra-Afghan negotiations. “I encourage parties to lay the necessary foundation for the talks by showing their commitment to peace through immediate and concrete actions to protect civilians and reduce violence,” she said.
“There are spoilers who do not wish to see an end to war,” said Lyons, who is also the head of UNAMA. “No matter what tactics they employ to derail the peace process, they cannot be allowed to succeed.”
Earlier on June 22, motorcycle-borne gunmen had killed five people, including one prosecutor, working in the Bagram detention facility in Kabul. Similarly, on June 27, a Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission staff member and driver were killed by an IED in Kabul city when they were traveling to work.
On 29 June, in Helmand’s Sangin district, dozens of civilian were killed from mortars fired by the Afghan National Army in response to Taliban fire. The mortars missed the intended target and landed in a busy marketplace, notes UNAMA’s preliminary findings.
“The Mission’s continued call for an end to violence is also immediately linked to the need for all parties to provide the necessary focus and resources to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, a serious threat to everyone in Afghanistan,” the report concluded.