Amnesty International Says Taliban Should be Prosecuted for War Crimes in Afghanistan

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Amnesty International Says Taliban Should be Prosecuted for War Crimes in Afghanistan

WASHINGTON - The Taliban and other insurgent
groups should be investigated and prosecuted for war crimes, Amnesty
International
said today, following the release of a United Nations report showing a
rise in targeted killings of civilians in Afghanistan by anti-government
fighters.

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan leapt by 31% in the first half of 2010,
driven largely by the Taliban and other insurgents' rising use of
improvised
explosive devices, and their increased targeting of civilians for
assassination,
according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).  Attacks
by the Taliban and other anti-government forces accounted for more than
76% of civilian casualties and 72% of deaths.

In the first half of 2010, the executions and assassinations of
civilians
by the Taliban and other insurgent groups increased by over 95% to 183
recorded deaths compared to the same time last year. The victims were
usually
accused of supporting the government.

"The Taliban and other insurgents are
becoming far bolder in their systematic killing of civilians," said Sam
Zarifi, Amnesty International's Asia-Pacific Director.
"Targeting of civilians is a war crime, plain and simple.
 The Afghan people are crying out for justice and have a right to
accountability and compensation."

"There is no practical justice system in Afghanistan now that can
address
the lack of accountability,"
said Zarifi. "So the Afghan government should ask the International
Criminal
Court to investigate war crimes and crimes against humanity that may
have
been committed by all parties to the conflict."

Afghanistan is a signatory to the Rome Statute of the International
Criminal
Court.  

Amnesty International has been told that tribal elders in various
villages
of Kandahar, Zabul, and Khost provinces have been fleeing rural areas,
fearing systematic targeting by the Taliban.

"The elders are threatened and if they don't cooperate with the Taliban
they are killed," said a Kandahar journalist.  "Then the Taliban
will just tell the village that the elder was an American spy and that
is why he was killed." The journalist asked not to be identified out of
fear of Taliban retaliation.

Amnesty International is urging the international and Afghan forces to
ensure they comply with their legal obligation to protect civilians from
harm, especially those who provide them with information about
anti-government
groups or cooperate during military operations.

According to UNAMA, NATO-led and government forces caused 29% fewer
casualties
than the previous year, which has been attributed to policy changes
placing
greater priority on civilian protection, borne out in a 64% decline in
casualties caused by aerial attacks.  

Amnesty International welcomes the reported drop in deaths caused by
NATO-led
forces, but sounded a note of caution.  

"Pro-government forces were responsible
for at least 223 deaths in six months, and NATO still has no coherent
way
of accounting for casualties," said Zarifi.  "Special Forces in
Afghanistan are still failing to be open about their actions when being
called to account over civilian casualties."

The UNAMA report singles out Special Forces in Afghanistan for acting
without
accountability, and calls for greater transparency over their
operations,
and for more information on forces are now operating under a new
integrated
command structure, so that casualties can be properly investigated and
justice delivered to victims.

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We are people from across the world standing up for humanity and human rights. Our purpose is to protect people wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied. We investigate and expose abuses, educate and mobilize the public, and help transform societies to create a safer, more just world.

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