Unlawful killings must cease immediately - UN rapporteur

A special rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights has said hundreds of civilians have been unlawfully killed by the Afghan police, militias, international forces, foreign intelligence agents and Taliban insurgents in the past four months.

Philip Alston - UN rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary execution, who visited different parts of Afghanistan and held extensive talks with commanders of the international forces based in Afghanistan, Afghan government officials, tribal elders and other actors - said at least 300 civilians had been killed by insurgents and about 200 others had been killed by international forces in 2008.

Alston said Afghan women also suffered from the impact of war when they lost fathers, husbands, sons and brothers, and received no sympathy or support. Furthermore, women are the victims of illegal “honour killings”, he said, adding that he was an independent rapporteur and did not reflect the UN view.

He demanded that extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary killings in Afghanistan must stop immediately.

“In a nutshell: police killings must cease; widespread impunity within the legal system for killing must be rejected; the killing of women and girls must end; the international military forces must ensure real accountability for their actions; and the UN should give greater prominence to the role of human rights in its activities,” Alston said.

''A key reason for these failures to act is the extent to which senior government and international officials focus on ‘stability’ and ‘security’ rather than ‘human rights’.''

Human rights overlooked?

Amid intensifying conflict-related violence which has increasingly affected civilians, the human rights of Afghan civilians have been overlooked, according to Alston.

“A key reason for these failures to act is the extent to which senior government and international officials focus on ‘stability’ and ‘security’ rather than ‘human rights’,” he said.

“No one in the government has any interest in investigating, much less prosecuting, those responsible [for unlawful killings]…and no one in the international community seems prepared to change that situation,” he said at the end of his 12-day mission in Afghanistan.

If urgent measures are not employed to drastically reduce civilian casualties, end unlawful killings and improve governance, not only will more civilians die in the coming months but the distrust of Afghan people of the international forces will also increase, Alston warned.

No talks with Taliban

The UN special rapporteur criticised the Afghan government for not supporting his expected talks with Taliban representatives and regretted his inability to convey his concerns to the insurgents.

“I believe that it would have been very helpful if I had been able to meet with the representatives of the Taliban. Opportunities to do that were presented to me, but the message conveyed by the government and other actors was loud and clear: there can be no discussion with the Taliban about human rights issues,” Alston told reporters in Kabul.

“I consider this to be a mistake. I consider that every actor which has a significant impact on human rights should be the object of discussion,” he said.