Tag Archives: NATO war violations

Trapped to Death

Sangin District Center during a fight between American troops and the Taliban in 2007. Image from wikipedia

By the start of 2017 the Taliban was pushing hard to take Sangin city’s district centre, Afghanistan, a fortified compound which housed the local security and administrative officials, just a few miles from Hamid Gul’s family home. The compound was the only thing stopping the Taliban from claiming the whole district as their own. The US, which had lost at least 70 of its own troops keeping Sangin out of insurgent hands over the years, scrambled to respond with scores of airstrikes.  Hamid was convinced that his family were still safer behind Taliban lines than in Laskhar Gah, one of the Taliban’s prime targets. But on the morning of February 10 2017, he got an unexpected phone call from a neighbour in Sangin: the family’s house had been flattened.  In that one night Hamid Gul lost his 50 year-old mother, Bibi Bakhtawara, six brothers and a sister. All seven children were under 16 years of age. Bibi Rahmania, his niece, also died. She was just two years old.

By the end of those three days, five women and 19 children were dead
Hamid was not the only person given devastating news on that day. On the same night, a few hours later, a second civilian house, just a few miles away from his own, was also hit. The following night a third one was struck.

To this day, there is no consensus about what happened to those three houses and why. What is clear, however, is that by the end of those three days in early February five women and 19 children were dead, among a full toll of 26 civilians, a Bureau investigation has established.

Three local officials interviewed by Bureau reporters on the ground claimed US airstrikes had destroyed the houses and killed their inhabitants. The United Nations (UN) said the same, in its biannual accounting of Afghan civilians killed in the war, released in July 2017, adding that there appeared to have been no fighting in the area at the time, meaning the attacks may have been pre-planned.

A spokesperson for Resolute Support, the US-led Nato mission in Afghanistan, told the Bureau that after four investigations the organisation could not confirm or deny responsibility for killing the civilians, though he pushed back strongly against the UN’s claims that there was no fighting in the villages at the time. Resolute Support has officially concluded the case as “disputed”, one of four categories for recording allegations of civilian casualties. It was used in this case because Resolute Support cannot decide if insurgents or the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) were responsible for the casualties, the spokesperson told the Bureau.

The fact that no-one has taken responsibility for the deaths of 24 women and children offers an insight into the lack of accountability of America’s longest-running conflict, which it now fights largely from the air under opaque rules of engagement against 20-odd armed groups.

Excerpts from  Caught in the crossfire
Civilians are bearing the brunt of conflict in Afghanistan, Bureau of Investigative Journalism, Sept. 30, 2017

The NATO and Anti-Qadhafi Forces War Violations, UN Human Rights Council Report

Here is the summary of the report.  (Full document 220 pages)

“The Commission concluded that the thuwar (anti-Qadhafi forces) committed serious violations, including war crimes and breaches of international human rights law, the latter continuing at the time of the present report. The Commission found these violations to include unlawful killing, arbitrary arrest, torture, enforced disappearance, indiscriminate attacks, and pillage. It found in particular that the thuwar are targeting the Tawergha and other communities.

The Commission concluded that North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) conducted a highly precise campaign with a demonstrable determination to avoid civilian casualties. On limited occasions, the Commission confirmed civilian casualties and found targets that showed no evidence of military utility. The Commission was unable to draw conclusions in such instances on the basis of the information provided by NATO and recommends further investigations.

The Commission conducted its investigations applying the international legal regimes dictated by the situation. It concluded that international crimes, specifically crimes against humanity and war crimes, were committed by Qadhafi forces in Libya. Acts of murder, enforced disappearance, and torture were perpetrated within the context of a widespread or systematic attack against a civilian population. The Commission found additional violations including unlawful killing, individual acts of torture and ill-treatment, attacks on civilians, and rape.

The interim Government faces many challenges in overcoming a legacy of more than 40 years of serious human rights violations and deterioration of the legislative framework, judicial and national institutions. It has nevertheless expressed a commitment to human rights and has taken positive steps to establish mechanisms for accountability. The government is gradually restoring the judiciary by reopening courts and recalling judges, and there has been some progress in the transfer of detainees to central government control.

The Commission is nevertheless concerned by the failure to hold accountable thuwar committing serious violations. Libyan authorities can break with the Qadhafi legacy by enforcing the law equally, investigating all abuses – irrespective of the perpetrator – and ensuring that amnesty processes comport with Libya’s obligations under international law.

To give effect to its commitment to improve the human rights situation in Libya, the interim Government will need considerable support from the United Nations and the international community.