Afghanistan: Accountability for Civilian Casualties Needed Before More Troops Arrive

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Afghanistan: Accountability for Civilian Casualties Needed Before More Troops Arrive

WASHINGTON - As US President Barack Obama announced
the deployment of extra troops in Afghanistan and urged NATO allies to
follow suit, Amnesty International has demanded that forces must do
more to provide accountability for civilian casualties of military
action.

"2008 was the most violent year for civilians since the fall of the
Taleban and Afghans are increasingly resentful about civilians
casualties caused by international forces during night raids and other
actions of this sort," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty International's
Asia-Pacific director.. "The challenge for the USA and its allies is to
ensure that the surge of international troops into the country will
provide better security for Afghans, and not put them at greater risk."

The killing of two brothers in Kandahar in the middle of the night
last January is a notable example of the lack of accountability of
international forces.  Amnesty International's research in Kandahar
indicates that Abdul Habib and Mohammed Ali, who were unarmed, were
shot at home at point blank range by international forces in camouflage
uniforms. More than a year later, no one has admitted responsibility
despite enquiries by Amnesty International, the Afghan Independent
Human Rights Commission, and the United Nation's Special Rapporteur on
extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston.

"The ongoing impunity surrounding the deaths of Abdul Habib and
Mohammed Ali highlights the lack of proper accountability for Western
forces operating in Afghanistan," said Sam Zarifi. "The country is at
tipping point and civilians are increasingly questioning whether their
government and its international allies are doing enough to protect
them.  The Taleban have stoked public resentment and international
forces have not yet demonstrated that they are serious about conducting
investigations of incidents and providing accountability and
compensation to the victims."

So far no one has accepted responsibility for the deaths of the two
brothers. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF)
told Amnesty International that no NATO/ISAF personnel were involved in
the operation. To date the US military has not acknowledged taking part
in this incident. 

Amnesty International has, however, received information that the
operation was conducted by personnel operating out of Firebase Gecko
(also known as Firebase Maholic), located at the former home of Taleban
leader Mullah Omar.  Now used as a US base, it houses regular
international troops, special forces units, as well as personnel from
intelligence agencies forces, such as the Central Intelligence Agency
(CIA), known to operate in Afghanistan. These forces are often referred
to as "other government agencies" or OGAs.

Afghan security forces in Kandahar have confirmed that they do not
exercise any control or command over the activity of special forces or
OGAs operating out of Firebase Gecko and cannot provide any remedy for
civilians injured by the action of units based there.

Amnesty International commended recent policies adopted by NATO and
US forces to minimize harm to civilians, but pointed out that there is
still great confusion about the chains of command, mandates and rules
of engagement of personnel from the nearly 40 countries operating
military forces in Afghanistan.

http://www.amnesty.org/en/library/info/ASA11/001/2009/en

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Amnesty International is a worldwide movement of people who campaign for internationally recognized human rights for all. Our supporters are outraged by human rights abuses but inspired by hope for a better world - so we work to improve human rights through campaigning and international solidarity. We have more than 2.2 million members and subscribers in more than 150 countries and regions and we coordinate this support to act for justice on a wide range of issues.

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