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More Troops in Afghanistan Must Not Harm Civilians, Warns Amnesty International

Amnesty International Urges Obama to Appoint a Human Rights Official to Monitor, Prevent and Investigate Civilian Casualties and Injuries

WASHINGTON - Amnesty International has called on the United States government to establish a consistent, clear and credible mechanism to investigate civilian casualties resulting from military operations in Afghanistan. The statement follows President Obama's recent commitment to sending 30,000 more troops to the region.

Amnesty International urges President Obama to appoint a senior human rights officer to investigate all abuses committed by U.S. troops and others connected to the military offensive. This officer should report directly to the White House to ensure full transparency and accountability.

The need for an improved system is urgent due to the current lack of accountability and transparency within other branches of the U.S. military, civilian intelligence agencies and private contractors.

"The United States should sign a proper Status of Forces agreement with Afghanistan, which would clarify the legal framework for the U.S. forces operating there," said T. Kumar, Amnesty International USA's Director for International Advocacy. "Currently there is only an exchange of diplomatic notes that essentially provides the U.S. with the unfettered ability to operate in Afghanistan, with no reference to human rights law."

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Clearer chains of command and rules of engagement that abide by international law must be established for all forces to ensure the safety of Afghan civilians. Without a clear sense of who is involved in these operations it is impossible for victims and their families to make complaints, inquire about investigations, and ultimately seek justice.

"Recent efforts by the U.S. and NATO forces to minimize civilian casualties are a step forward, but the U.S. government must ensure that any troops who violate Afghan civilians' human rights are held to account," said Madhu Malhotra, Asia-Pacific deputy director for Amnesty International. "More U.S. troops must not lead to more harm to Afghan civilians."

Amnesty International recognizes that anti-government groups, including the Taliban, are responsible for the majority of civilian casualties and injuries. However, this does not diminish the U.S. responsibility to offer support for those injured by Afghan and NATO/U.S. forces and to bring those suspected of violations of international humanitarian and human rights law to justice.

Respect for international law, including human rights law and international humanitarian law, by all parties involved is a prerequisite to bringing security to Afghanistan.

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