‘Devastating Toll’ on Afghan Civilians in 2019: HRW

15 January 2020

The HRW report said that civilian deaths caused by the Afghan government and US operations exceeded the Taliban’s for the first time.

The Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Tuesday in its World Report 2020 said that attacks by all parties to Afghanistan’s armed conflict in  2019 took a “devastating toll” on civilians.

The report said that for the first time the deaths caused by the Afghan government and United States operations exceeded those caused by the Taliban in the first half of 2019, largely due to a sharp increase in US airstrikes.

“The Taliban carried out indiscriminate attacks, particularly before the September presidential elections, that killed and injured hundreds of civilians,” the report said.

“As fighting has dragged on, all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan have shown a blatant disregard for the laws of war and have caused appalling civilian harm,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at HRW.

“However, peace talks play out in 2020, the lives of ordinary Afghans will depend on the warring parties making a commitment to protect civilians and uphold human rights,” the report said.

In the 652-page World Report  2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries.

Throughout  2019, Afghan women’s rights groups and other activists called for broad representation of Afghans in the talks with the Taliban, and for preserving human rights protections, including constitutional guarantees on women’s equality, according to the report.

Afghan special forces supported by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) carried out “summary executions and enforced disappearances” during so-called night raids, according to the report.

The report cites an August 12 incident where a special forces unit known as “02,” which has CIA support, “summarily executed 11 men,” mostly members of one extended family, in a night raid in Zurmat district, Nangarhar.

The report stated that the Taliban also carried out “summary executions, torture, and ill-treatment, including forced labor of prisoners.”

HRW listed the Taliban’s targeting of civilians, including Abdul Samad Amiri, acting head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s office in Ghor province, who was abducted on September 3 together with a government employee. On September 5, the bodies of both men were found in the Jalrez district of Maidan Wardak province, an area under Taliban control.

The report claims the Afghan government made progress in reducing torture in some detention facilities but failed to hold security force members and prominent political figures accountable for abuses, including sexual assault.

‘Devastating Toll’ on Afghan Civilians in 2019: HRW