UN in talks with Afghan Taliban to reduce civilian casualties

The United Nations has been talking to the Afghan Taliban on measures to limit the impact of the conflict on civilians, as it recorded the highest ever number of civilians killed and injured in Afghanistan in 2014.

PTI| Updated: Dec 20, 2014, 21:15 PM IST

United Nations: The United Nations has been talking to the Afghan Taliban on measures to limit the impact of the conflict on civilians, as it recorded the highest ever number of civilians killed and injured in Afghanistan in 2014.

UN's top official in Afghanistan Nicholas Haysom told reporters here yesterday that the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) is continuing discussions with all parties, including the Taliban, to strengthen mitigating measures to limit the impact of the conflict on civilians.

"We think it is really important to engage all parties to the conflict on the question of civilian casualties...We have more recently engaged with the Taliban," he said.

UNAMA continues to advocate and lobby all parties particularly "anti-government elements" to do much more to abide by their legal obligation under international law and under Afghan law to reduce civilian casualties and to not attack civilians either deliberately or indiscriminately.

Haysom highlighted the devastating impact of the conflict on Afghan civilians.

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan increased by nearly 20 per cent in 2014 compared to the previous year and are expected to rise to a figure over 10,000 by end of December ? for the first time since the UN mission in the country began keeping record in 2008.

UNAMA documented that from January 2014 to the end of November there were 9,617 civilian casualties which includes 3,188 civilian deaths and 6,429 civilian injuries.

"One of the measurements of the security situation has been civilian casualties," the special envoy said.

"Civilian casualties are a particularly tragic and very prominent part, even benchmark, of the horror of the violence that ordinary Afghans face."

As of November 30, UNAMA recorded more civilian deaths and injuries during 2014 than in any other year since it began its authoritative reports in 2009.

Civilian casualties increased 19 per cent overall from last year, Haysom said. These casualties resulted mostly from ground engagements between parties to the conflict, improvised explosive devices, and suicide and complex attacks.

Insurgents were responsible for at least 75 per cent of the casualties. Children casualties increased 33 per cent compared to 2013, with casualties among women up 12 per cent.

Georgette Gagnon, the Director of Human Rights at the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said current projections indicate that 2014 will be the first year that the civilian casualty count will pass 10,000 civilian casualties since it began its reports.