Amnesty warning over civilian deaths in Afghanistan

LONDON- Amnesty International appealed Tuesday to NATO forces involved in a major assault in southern Afghanistan and their Taliban opponents to protect civilians caught up in the conflict.
"About 10,000 civilians have fled the conflict zone, but thousands more are caught up in the fighting," said Sam Zarifi, the London-based rights organisation's Asia-Pacific director.

Amnesty warning over civilian deaths in Afghanistan
He noted reports that the Taliban had tried to prevent civilians leaving the area where US-led forces are battling insurgents as part of Operation Mushtarak, and had sought shelter among the civilian population.
"The Taliban have a record of knowingly endangering Afghan civilians in their operations, which can constitute a war crime," Zarifi said.
"Insurgent groups are bound by international law to take every possible precaution to protect the lives of civilians.
"The Taliban invoke international laws of war when it suits their purposes. Their failure to respect these laws is inexcusable and they should be held to account for their actions."
He added that NATO operations had also resulted in civilian deaths, and said that despite commitments to minimise such casualties, more could be done.
"International and Afghan forces still lack a consistent, clear and credible mechanism to investigate civilian casualties, provide accountability and ensure that such incidents do not recur," Zarifi said.
"This is now particularly urgent with more than 30,000 extra foreign troops deployed in Afghanistan and apparently committed to a more aggressive military strategy."

Wednesday, February 17th 2010

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