Afghan war remains among deadliest in world: UN official

KABUL (Pajhwok): The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan, exacting a heavy toll on civilians, remains among the deadliest in the world, says a top UN human rights official. Mahamane Cissé-Gouro, in charge of the Field Operations and Technical Cooperation Division of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, made the remarks.

The official was presenting the high commissioner’s report to the UN Human Rights Commission’s 46th session. While Afghanistan should have moved closer towards peace, civilians continued to suffer and lose their lives due to intensifying violence in the country, he pointed out.

The deliberate killing of human rights defenders and journalists had been particularly shocking in the last few months and since the start of the Afghanistan peace negotiations, said the report from the high commissioner for human rights. Civil society and media had an important role to play, the Afghan people needed their voices and opinions and the government should provide them with space to operate, she wrote.

Anti-government forces must stop targeting them, the UN’s human rights chief stressed in her report. Participants voiced their concern at civilians continuing to bear the brunt of the conflict since the launch of the peace negotiations. Almost half of the casualties were women and children.

Afghanistan was at a critical point which was particularly crucial for Afghan women, Cissé-Gouro noted, calling for their meaningful participation in the peace process. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) played a jey role despite its staff being directly targeted, the meeting noted.

In a video message to the session, AIHRC Chairperson Shahaezad Akbar underlined the need for a ceasefire and protection of the civic space for the peace process to be seen as credible by all Afghans. According to AIHRC figures, Akbar said, targeted killings were the second leading cause of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2020 — a “threefold increase compared to 2019.

“While those who can are leaving the country, many across Afghanistan felt silenced by fear and are constrained in their activism. This unimaginable attack on Afghanistan’s civic space is ongoing and the world is not doing enough to stop it.” She urged the United Nations and the global human rights community to stand by Afghans and urge both parties to stop the violence and continue engaging in peace negotiations. The peace negotiations represented an historic opportunity for the parties to the conflict to consider the irreversible loss the war had inflicted on the people, remarked Cissé-Gouro.