The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Marla Keenan, Associate Director

Afghanistan: New Civilian Death Count Indicates Unrecognized Suffering

War victim advocates say Afghan families deserve assistance following losses


Following the release of civilian casualty figures by the United Nations today, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) expressed sympathy for the families with loved ones killed and called on all warring parties to provide swift, consistent, coordinated amends for that harm.

"A civilian killed in war is tragic enough, but we also know that many of these Afghans never receive the help they deserve after the loss of a loved one," said Sarah Holewinski, CIVIC's executive director. "Survivors are in effect harmed twice when left to pick up the pieces of their lives without proper aid or compensation."

The statistics compiled by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) indicate that nearly 1,500 civilians were killed in the first eight months of 2008. This marks a 39 percent increase over the same period of time in 2007, with substantially higher rates of deaths caused by all warring parties in Afghanistan.

CIVIC noted that several mechanisms exist in Afghanistan to help civilians suffering combat-related losses, but that many Afghans with credible claims of deaths, injuries and significant property damage are overlooked or ignored by those well-intentioned efforts. A small number of militaries on the ground, including the United States, Canada and Germany, maintain ad-hoc systems to pay compensation when a civilian is harmed. A program created and funded by the US Congress called the Afghan Civilian Assistance Program rebuilds for the long-term the lives of civilians harmed by any international military operation. Finally, international forces maintain a common Post-Operations Humanitarian Relief Fund which provides immediate assistance, though only nine NATO states have donated. CIVIC also pointed to anecdotal evidence that the Taliban sometimes offer communities aid following combat harm in order to win the propaganda war.

"The new UN numbers give us a better picture of what has already happened," said Holewinski. "It's time for those fighting to change the picture of what will happen next." CIVIC called on international forces in Afghanistan to investigate civilian harm, coordinate a response among member states and compensate wherever appropriate.

Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) advocates on behalf of victims of armed conflict, working to ensure they receive recognition and assistance from warring parties. CIVIC persuaded the US Congress to establish programs for war victims in Afghanistan and Iraq, guides victims to assistance, brings the human cost of war to the attention of policymakers and the public, and is advocating a new global standard of conduct that warring parties should help where they have hurt.