By Robin Gomes
The United Nations rights chief has expressed alarm over the rising violence and perpetration of human rights violations in Afghanistan, saying they are having disastrous consequences on the people. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on Tuesday expressed her concern as civilian casualties continue to mount and reports of violations that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity continued to emerge.
Appeal for Ceasefire
"Parties to the conflict must stop fighting to prevent more bloodshed. The Taliban must cease their military operations in cities,” Bachelet stressed. She warned that “unless all parties return to the negotiating table and reach a peaceful settlement, the already atrocious situation for so many Afghans will become much worse”.
After 20 years of war, which started as a response to the 9/11 attacks on the US, foreign forces are pulling out of Afghanistan following a deal between the US and the Taliban militants they removed from power back in 2001. The Taliban have pledged not to allow Afghanistan to become a base for terrorists who could threaten the West.
But the manner and speed with which the Taliban are wresting control of territories from government troops, indicate the country is slipping into a worsening humanitarian crisis and civil war.
The Taliban’s sweeping takeover of at least 6 provincial capitals, 192 district administrative centres and attacks on other provincial capitals has “struck fear and dread into the population,” the High Commissioner pointed out.
She particularly drew attention to the high number of casualties in urban areas. Since July 9, in four cities alone – Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat and Kunduz at least 183 civilians have been killed and 1,181 injured, warning that even before the latest Taliban military offensives on urban centres, the UN had documented a steep increase in civilian casualties.
Reports by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office, show that most of the civilian harm is being caused by ground engagements. In addition, since the start of the May Taliban offensive, at least 241,000 people have been displaced, and the protracted fighting in the cities has resulted in damage to essential infrastructures like roads and bridges, and other civilian objects.
Earlier on Monday, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed shock at the rapid escalation of grave violations against children in Afghanistan, following the deaths of 27 children in the country in the past 72 hours, and 136 who were injured. "All of them are children whose right to protection, under international humanitarian law, has been disregarded by warring parties,” said UNICEF Afghanistan Representative Hervé Ludovic De Lys, in a statement.
Newly appointed UN Humanitarian Affairs chief and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, also joined UN Secretary-General António Guterres and members of the Security Council in condemning attacks against civilians and called for a ceasefire. In a statement, Griffiths said, “Fighting across the country, which has claimed the lives of over 40,000 people since 2009 when UN reporting began, needs to stop.” “People have suffered enough,” he added. More than 1,000 people were been killed or injured due to indiscriminate attacks against civilians in Helmand, Kandahar and Herat provinces in July alone.