Posted By: Erica

For the past two weeks the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary executions has been in Afghanistan on a fact-finding mission (See here for a Special Rapporteur definition). His mandate is to look into all violations of the “right to life” in Afghanistan, and provide recommendations for improving respect for this international obligation.

The Rapporteur’s full report is forthcoming, but his preliminary statements already reinforce what CIVIC has been fighting for in Afghanistan. International troops have caused an estimated 200 civilian deaths since the beginning of 2008. In fact, we’ve been trying to get numbers from the militaries working there on casualty numbers for years. The Rapporteur found that he couldn’t get them either.

While many of these casualties may have been lawful under international law, the Rapporteur said, the lack of accountability and responsibility of international forces in responding to these deaths is troubling. Families he spoke with who tried to follow up on their loved ones’ deaths faced a “maze” of competing procedures and different foreign national mechanisms that were “impenetrable” even to an expert, much less to an ordinary citizen. “The international forces operating in Afghanistan have a responsibility to make sure that there is a coherent, unified system of accountability which Afghans and others can follow. … Affected individuals should be able to go to a military base operating under any mandate, and receive prompt, straightforward answers.”

The Rapporteur also chided all members of the international community and the Afghan government for their “complacency” about the loss of life in Afghanistan. He said that while there was certain to be some loss of life within an armed conflict, any level of gratuitous or unnecessary killing is not only tragic but also undermines the support that is so key to success in Afghanistan.

As the Rapporteur best put it: “Afghanistan is enveloped in an armed conflict. But that does not mean that large numbers of avoidable killings of civilians must be tolerated.

Image courtesy of CIVIC
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