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Afghanistan Urged To Probe Killing Of Civilians Amid Continued Impunity

Afghan civilians who were injured in bomb blasts receive medical treatment at a hospital in Herat on May 24.

Amnesty International is urging the Afghan authorities to investigate and bring to justice the perpetrators of a recent series of deadly attacks against civilians amounting to war crimes.

“The targeting of civilians with near total impunity continues unabated,” Samira Hamidi, the London-based human rights watchdog’s South Asia campaigner, said in a statement on June 16, after at least 24 civilians were killed across Afghanistan in just over a week.

“While peace talks falter and preparations for the full withdrawal of international forces gathers pace, it’s Afghanistan’s civilians who are paying the brutal price of this conflict.”

Health workers, humanitarians, human rights defenders, and journalists “have been particularly targeted in a wave of assassinations” since peace talks launched in Qatar in September 2020 between the Afghan government and the Taliban, with at least 24 of them being killed since the beginning of the year, according to Amnesty International.

With the exception of one of these killings, no other investigations have taken place, and nobody has been brought to justice in any of the cases, it added.

The watchdog’s plea comes after gunmen on June 15 targeted polio vaccination teams in the eastern province of Nangarhar, killing five health workers and wounding four others.

Three days earlier, two car bombs killed at least seven civilians and wounded six others in an area of Kabul largely populated by members of the Shi’ite Hazara minority.

There were no claims of responsibility for these attacks.

This week’s incidents followed the killing of 10 Afghans working for a mine-clearance organization in the northern province of Baghlan on June 8 in an attack claimed by an affiliate of the Islamic State (IS) extremist group. Sixteen workers were also wounded.

Amnesty International also noted that two doctors were also killed in separate attacks in Parwan and Farah provinces over the past week.

“In recent months we have seen appalling attacks on schoolchildren, health workers, humanitarians and other civilians in busy streets and markets. Deliberately attacking medical personnel, humanitarian workers and other civilians are war crimes,” Hamidi said.

She called on the Afghan authorities to “end this cycle of impunity by launching independent and effective investigations” into attacks on civilians and bring those responsible to justice.

All parties to the conflict must “take all measures necessary to protect civilians and respect international humanitarian law,” while the international community should make the protection of civilians and of minorities a “central component of their ongoing support of the peace process,” she added.

Meanwhile, the European Union's acting special envoy for Afghanistan said that time is running out for peace negotiations and more needed to be done to boost the negotiations as international forces withdraw from the war-torn country.

"Time is getting shorter as we speak," Tomas Niklasson, told Reuters during a visit to Islamabad. "There has been no or very little progress on substance, so from that perspective more has to be done."

The stalled intra-Afghan talks in Doha largely broke off in April, when the United States announced it would pull out its forces by September 11 following a May 1 deadline the previous U.S. administration had agreed with the Taliban.

With reporting by Reuters
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