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UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

Published July 31, 2013

The Human Rights Unit of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) prepares mid-year reports on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan, as mandated by United Nations Security Council Resolution 2096 (2013), which "recognizes the importance of ongoing monitoring and reporting to the United Nations Security Council on the situation of civilians in Afghanistan's armed conflict and in particular on civilian casualties."

Executive summary from full 2013 report:

Armed conflict in Afghanistan took an unrelenting toll on Afghan civilians in 2013. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 8,615 civilian casualties (2,959 civilian deaths and 5,656 injured) in 2013, marking a seven percent increase in deaths, 17 percent increase in injured, and a 14 percent increase in total civilian casualties compared to 2012.

Escalating deaths and injuries to civilians in 2013 reverses the decline recorded in 2012 and is consistent with record high numbers of civilian casualties documented in 2011. Since 2009, the armed conflict in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 14,064 Afghan civilians.

UNAMA attributed 74 percent of civilian deaths and injuries to Anti-Government Elements, 11 percent to Pro-Government Forces (eight percent to Afghan national security forces and three percent to international forces) and ten percent to ground engagements between Anti-Government Elements and Pro-Government Forces. Theremaining five percent of civilian casualties were unattributed, resulting mainly from explosive remnants of war.

Mirroring the trends reported in UNAMA's 2013 Mid-year Report on Protection of Civilians in the Armed Conflict , improvised explosive devices (IEDs) used by Anti-Government Elements particularly in areas populated or frequented by civilians was the main factor that drove the escalation in civilian casualties across Afgh anistan in 2013. Increased ground engagements between Anti-Government Elements and Pro-Government Forces with civilians caught in the crossfire was a new trend with ground engagements causing 27 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries in 2013.

UNAMA observed that 2013 was the worst year for Afghan women, girls and boys since 2009 with the highest recorded number of women and children's deaths and injuries. Conflict-related violence caused 746 women casualties (235 women killed and 511 injured), up 36 percent from 2012. Child casualties increased by 34 percent compared to 2013 to 1,756 with 561 children killed and 1,195 injured. In line with the new trend of increased civilian casualties from ground engagements, 39 percent of all women and children ca sualties were from ground engagements which caused the most women and child casualties in 2013. While ground engagements injured the most women and children in 2013, IEDs remained the biggest killer of women and children.

At the start of 2014, UNAMA reiterates the imperative for parties to the armed conflict, in particular Anti-Government Elements, to halt the worsening impact of conflict on Afghan civilians. Increased indiscriminate and unlawful use of IEDs by Anti-Government Elements killed and injured thousands of Afghan civilians as they went about their daily lives. Targeted killings of civilians by Anti-Government Elements and increased ground engagements between insurgents and Afghan national security forces put more and more civilians at risk of de ath and injury in their homes and communities. UNAMA again calls on all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to take all necessary measures to protect civilians from the harms of conflict.

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