As Civilian Casualties Spike in July, UN Urges Parties to Protect Them

The United Nations in Afghanistan in a statement has reminded all parties to the conflict of their responsibility to protect civilians and to comply with their obligations under international law, as the latest UN documentation shows that civilian casualty rates returned to record high levels in the month of July.

Civilians bore the brunt of escalating violence in July, as per preliminary UN findings that show that more than 1,500 civilians were killed and injured, the highest number of any month this year, and the highest number documented in a single month since May 2017. The main driver in July was a sharp rise in civilian casualties caused by Anti-Government Elements (AGEs).

“As peace efforts have intensified in recent weeks so too has the conflict on the ground,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

“I call on all parties not to ramp up military operations thinking that doing so will give them a stronger position in talks about peace,” said the envoy, who is also head of UNAMA. “Escalating the conflict will have one primary result: greater loss of civilian life. Now is the time to demonstrate restraint and real respect for the lives of ordinary Afghan civilians.”

UNAMA documented an increase through July in the number of disproportionate and indiscriminate Taliban attacks in urban areas against Afghan military and security objects and personnel. These attacks caused great harm to civilians.

UNAMA expressed concern for the harm done to civilians from AGE attacks involving improvised explosive devices (IEDs). The use of IEDs by AGEs was responsible for more than 50 per cent of civilian casualties in July.

“The UN is particularly appalled by numerous incidents when AGEs have deliberately targeted civilians. Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP) claimed a 25 July suicide attack in Kabul against a Ministry of Mines and Petroleum bus and an explosion targeting first responders. Seven civilians were killed, including six women and a three-year-old boy, with 32 others injured. On 19 July, eight civilians were killed and 36 injured when attackers focused on civilians at Kabul University. Deliberately targeting civilians or civilian objects amounts to a war crime” the statement said.

UNAMA also expressed deep concern about various incidents in july which harmed civilian life and reminded all parties of the special protection afforded to health facilities and personnel under international humanitarian law.

In addition, UNAMA reiterated that the killing, by any party to the conflict, of persons taking no active part in hostilities is explicitly prohibited by Common Article 3 at any time and any place, and may amount to a war crime.

“Parties must ensure compliance with their obligations under international law. In the conduct of hostilities, parties to the conflict must refrain from directing attacks against civilians and civilian objects”, the UN urged.

UNAMA finally urged all parties to the conflict to strengthen their engagement with the United Nations and reminded them of their responsibility to protect civilians.

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