Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Afghanistan: US Should Investigate Civilian Deaths

Military events in Afghanistan have prompted calls for investigations, following the deaths of civilians caught in crossfire.

On March 4, insurgents in a civilian van carried out a suicide bomb attack on a US military convoy on the Jalalabad highway in eastern Nangarhar province; reports suggest that US forces shot indiscriminately at civilian vehicles and pedestrians as they sped away, with 8-16 killed and 25 wounded.

In the second incident, Afghan officials announced that 9 civilians had been killed after a NATO airstrike linked to skirmishes between US forces and insurgents.

HRW made an interesting IHL-based argument:
"Suicide bombers in Afghanistan regularly pose as civilians, but that doesn't give coalition forces carte blanche to respond with indiscriminate fire," said Brad Adams, Asia director at Human Rights Watch. "The fact that the insurgents violate the laws of war doesn't absolve the US and its allies of the need to observe them."

'Human Rights Watch said that the US military should ensure that meaningful investigations take place in both cases. Appropriate action, including disciplinary measures and prosecution, should be undertaken as warranted. Human Rights Watch welcomed the Afghan government's intention to participate in these investigations.'

On 06 March, hundreds of Afghans protested the killings in eastern Afghanistan, while NATO launched a major southern offensive called Operation Achilles, said to target Taliban and narco-traffickers.