December 23, 2008
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has issued a scathing report on the use of air strikes and nighttime raids by international forces in the country.
The report, which was released in Kabul on Tuesday, suggests that NATO is undermining its own mission by stoking resentment in the local population.
Air strikes and nighttime searches of civilian homes are the two main causes of resentment and anger among the local population, according to the 55-page report.
“Afghan families experienced their family members killed or injured, their houses or other property destroyed, or homes invaded at night without any perceived justification or legal authorization,” the report says.
“They often did not know who perpetrated the acts against the family or why.… To their knowledge and perception, those who perpetrated the acts were never punished, nor prevented from repeating them.”
The report characterizes incursions into homes as violent break-ins that reportedly include “abusive behaviour” and cultural insensitivity, particularly toward women.
The document acknowledges that it is difficult to verify the truthfulness of individual reports of home incursions but the number of reported instances suggests the night raids occur regularly.
‘No accountability’ for raids: report
The report suggests international forces often rely on unreliable sources or faulty intelligence when launching the incursions into homes, and there is little public accountability for the raids, which also appears to increase local anger.
There is a lack of co-ordination between coalition forces, foreign soldiers and local authorities, the report says.
“Ordinary people believe that there is no accountability or justice in respect of these violations, regardless of who [has] committed [them]. The overall picture is that … continuing support for Afghan government and international military has been eroded as … consequences of the not carefully planned night raids,” the report says.
Canadian military officials at Kandahar Airfield and NATO officials in Kabul were not immediately available to comment.
Monthly tracking information from the United Nations’ human rights unit shows air strikes have been responsible for 25 per cent of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan this year. Coalition forces caused the majority of those civilian casualties.
The report said that the lack of recognition of the victims, apology or compensation has also caused anger and resentment in the local community.
“Ignoring the damage to civilians and lack of transparent and public investigations have contributed to the picture that the international forces are not interested and concerned about their activities causing damage to ordinary people,” the document states.
The commission, which is funded by the countries involved in the NATO mission in Afghanistan, made a deal with Canada last year to monitor the condition of all detainees seized by the Canadian military and handed over to Afghan officials.
To compile the report, investigators from the commission spent three weeks gathering 74 testimonies from witnesses, military personnel, local authorities and government officials. The commission also analyzed information from its regular reporting and incident monitoring, and scoured media reports and investigations by other human rights organizations.
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