Civilians increasingly bore the brunt of Afghanistan’s widening armed conflict in 2018, Human Rights Watch said today as it released its World Report 2019.
More than 10,000 civilians were killed or injured during the year, it was noted, and a third of the number were children.
The report points out that as insurgent carried out deadly attacks in urban areas, assassinated officials and other civilians, and targeted voters, the United States and Afghan government forces also caused civilian casualties during intensified airstrikes and night raids.
Highlighting a worrying impact of insecurity, the report sheds light on the massive displacement and a drop in school attendance for the first time since 2002. It has been noted that a significant 60 percent of Afghan girls were not in school.
“Longstanding governance failures, a contemptible disregard for civilians by insurgents, and a short-sighted security strategy by the US and other donor countries, has had catastrophic results in Afghanistan,” explained Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. She continued that “Momentum for peace talks in 2019 may depend on whether the participants make protecting civilians and human rights a priority.”
In the report, Human Rights Watch reviews the human rights practices in more than 100 countries.
The Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP) has steeply increased its attacks in urban areas through 2018, including multiple bombings that targeted Afghanistan’s minority Shia population.
The Taliban as well have carried out indiscriminate attacks that killed and injured hundreds of civilians, the report highlights.
But the third factor in civilian casualties are none other than the Air operations by US forces and the Afghan Air Force which have killed and injured over 600 civilians, 60 percent of them being women and children.
The report stresses that neither of the militaries have carried out any adequate probe into airstrikes that were possible war crimes.
Shockingly, the leading causes of casualties among children were improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by insurgents and explosive remnants of war left by all sides.
Covering the insecurity during parliamentary elections in Afghanistan, the report noted that insurgents carrying out numerous attacks on candidates and facilities used for voter registration, including schools, “Targeted attacks on voters, roadways, and poll facilities on election days killed or injured over 400 civilians. Fraud and vote-buying cast doubt on prospects for credible presidential elections in 2019”.
With respect to journalist and media persons safety issue, it was pointed out that at least 14 journalists were killed in 2018, 11 of them in ISKP suicide attacks aimed at first-responders. The Taliban made direct death threats against journalists while Afghan authorities and security forces too assaulted members of the media. Additionally, unidentified gunmen assassinated two journalists, in Khost and Kandahar.
Women and girls who were victims of domestic violence rarely found justice in the courts, as prosecutors and police pressured them to accept mediation, rather than prosecution of their assailants, the HRW World Report 2019 found.
“Trying to bring stability to Afghanistan while turning a blind eye to corruption and systematic abuses has been a signal failure by the Afghan government, donors, and international forces,” Gossman expressed. “Afghanistan is on the precipice of even greater tragedy unless all stakeholders commit to respecting human rights and reducing harm to civilians”, she conceded.