In recent months, terrorists have repeatedly targeted sacred places, hospitals, mourners and travelers on the highways across the country.
Recently the enemies of the people of Afghanistan once again committed a crime by targeting civilians in a hospital in west of Kabul. The so-called IS militants claimed responsibility for the incident that killed many mothers and newborn babies.
The war in Afghanistan continues destroying lives, due to the direct consequences of violence and the war-induced breakdown of public health, security, and infrastructure. Civilians have been killed by crossfire, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), assassinations, bombings, and during the raids into houses of suspected insurgents. Even in the absence of fighting, unexploded ordnance from previous wars and cluster bombs continue to kill.
A fundamental rule of international humanitarian law is that civilians must enjoy general protection against danger arising from military operations. The rule of civilian immunity is one of “the oldest fundamental maxims” of international customary law, meaning that it is binding on all parties to a conflict, regardless of whether a conflict is international or non-international in character.
The deliberately targeting civilians, suicide bombing attacks clearly violate the above-mentioned fundamental rule of the laws of war. The prohibition against targeting civilians holds in all circumstances, including when a party undertakes such attacks in retaliation for attacks on its own civilians.
Indeed such atrocities by the terrorists in Afghanistan add to their criminal record every day and one day they will be held accountable as war criminals before the court of law and people of Afghanistan.
The leadership of the government of Afghanistan has made clear that addressing the issue of civilian harm is a key priority and has identified a clear strategic duty to protect civilians and prevent civilian casualties. President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had earlier said that to defend and protect the country, there is need for legitimate use of force. Using illegitimate force, harming civilians and violating the rights of people weaken the legitimacy of the state.
Besides government’s commitment of protecting the civilians, the United Nations and the country’s international allies need to promote and seek negotiating channels with the Taliban and other militant groups over the issue of protecting civilians. The Taliban have time and again stressed that they are morally bound to avoid suffering of civilians and innocent people, however they have violated their own commitments.
The government and the Resolute Support Mission are also required to focus on preventing the militants to take footholds in civilian areas in the far remote districts and rural areas. The issue of civilian casualties will test government’s ability to provide relative security and maintain order and stability which, in turn, will help to restore public confidence to the government and the Afghan National Security Forces.