Annual Report 2011: Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict

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Civilian casualties rise for fifth consecutive year in Afghan conflict

KABUL, 4 FEBRUARY 2012 – 2011 marked the fifth year in a row that civilian casualties have increased in the armed conflict in Afghanistan, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said today releasing its 2011 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, prepared in coordination with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. Changes in the tactics of the parties to the conflict were responsible for an eight per cent increase in Afghan civilian deaths in 2011 compared to 2010.

UNAMA documented 3,021 civilian deaths in 2011 compared with 2,790 in 2010 and 2,412 in 2009. Over the past five years, the number of Afghan civilians killed in the armed conflict has increased each year, with a total of 11,864 civilian lives claimed by the conflict since 2007. “Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed in this war in ever-increasing numbers,” said Ján Kubiš, United Nations Special Representative for the Secretary-General. “For much too long Afghan civilians have paid the highest price of war. Parties to the conflict must greatly increase their efforts to protect civilians to prevent yet another increase in civilian deaths and injuries in 2012.” Anti-Government Elements caused the most Afghan civilian deaths in 2011 – 2,332 or 77 percent of all civilians who died in the conflict, up 14 percent from 2010. In addition, 410 civilian deaths (14 percent of the total) resulted from the operations of Pro-Government Forces, a decrease of four percent from 2010. A further 279 civilian deaths, or nine percent of the total, could not be attributed to a particular party to the conflict.

The record loss of Afghan civilian lives resulted mainly from changes in the tactics of Anti-Government Elements that used improvised explosive devices more frequently and more widely across the country, conducted deadlier suicide attacks yielding greater numbers of victims, and increased the unlawful and targeted killing of civilians. The effects of tactics of other parties to the conflict also influenced the number of civilians killed and injured. Civilian deaths from aerial attacks by Pro-Government Forces rose in 2011, in spite of a decrease in the number of aerial attacks and an overall decline in civilian deaths attributed to Pro-Government Forces.

The report notes “The tactics of choice of Anti-Government Elements subjected Afghan civilians to death and injury with increasingly lethal results in 2011. Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were the single largest killer of Afghan children, women and men in 2011, taking the lives of 967 civilians, or nearly one in three (32 percent) of all civilians killed in the conflict.” Anti-Government Elements increased their use of illegal, indiscriminate victim-activated pressure plate IEDs that function as anti-personnel landmines detonated by any person including children stepping on, or any vehicle driving over them.