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Report calls out 'war crimes' committed during collapse of Afghanistan

A new report by Amnesty international has documented war crimes and atrocities committed during the fall of the internationally backed Afghan government in August.

A Taliban fighter walks past a mural along a street in Kabul

Rights group Amnesty International held the Taliban, the United States military and Afghan security forces responsible for attacks that caused large-scale civilian suffering before the fall of the government in Kabul in August this year.

In a new report released on Wednesday, Amnesty International alleged the Taliban committed "war crimes" during the collapse of the internationally backed Afghan government to the Taliban.

The report chronicles torture, extrajudicial executions and killings by the Taliban during the last phase of the conflict in Afghanistan.

It also documents civilian casualties during ground and air offensives by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and US military forces.

"The months before the government collapse in Kabul were marked by repeated war crimes and relentless bloodshed committed by the Taliban, as well as deaths caused by Afghan and US forces," Agnes Callamard, Amnesty International's secretary general, said in a statement. "Homes, hospitals, schools and shops were turned into crime scenes as people were repeatedly killed and injured."

Callamard called for access to justice and reparations for the victims.

Taliban killings 'constitute war crimes'

The report, entitled "No Escape: War Crimes and Civilian Harm During The Fall Of Afghanistan To The Taliban," reported that the Taliban had tortured and killed ethnic and religious minorities, former Afghan soldiers and suspected government sympathizers as they gained control of Afghanistan in the months of July and August.

It details an account from September 6, 2021, when the Taliban forces attacked Bazark, a town in the Panjshir province.

Following a brief battle, nearly 20 men were captured by Taliban fighters. The prisoners were detained for two days and were at times jailed in a pigeon coop, the report said.

They were also tortured; denied food, water and medical aid; and repeatedly threatened with execution, the report added.

In one instance, at least six civilians were executed in a village in Panjshir. They were killed by gunshots to the head, chest or heart.

"Such killings constitute war crimes," the report said.

Civilians killed in US and Afghan air strikes

The report also recorded four air strikes in recent years, which killed a total of 28 civilians, including 15 men, five women and eight children. Six others were injured.

It found that three of these strikes were most likely carried out by US forces and one by the Afghan Air Force.

The strikes generally resulted in civilian deaths, because the US dropped explosive weapons in populated areas, the report said.

Amnesty International's report provides an account of an air strike in the Kunduz Province, which the group says was most likely carried out by US forces. It killed five civilians, including a three-month-old girl.

"I was sleeping when the first bomb hit […] They were telling us to hide somewhere in case the second bomb happened. My father said I had to find my younger brother. The second bomb killed my mother, my uncle, my aunt, and my sister," the report quotes a 9-year-old child who was injured in the attack as saying.

Atrocities continue

The United Nations in Afghanistan had reported that 1,659 civilians were killed and another 3,524 injured in the first six months of 2021. That tally accounted for a 47% rise in killings and injuries from the prior year.

On Tuesday, the UN said that there were "credible allegations" of more than 100 extrajudicial killings in Afghanistan since the August 15 takeover of Kabul, with most blamed on the Taliban.

"Between August and November, we received credible allegations of more than 100 killings of former Afghan national security forces and others associated with the former government," UN deputy rights chief Nada Al-Nashif told the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday.

"At least 72 of these killings," she said, were "attributed to the Taliban."

Al-Nashif said she was deeply concerned by continued reports of such killings, despite apparent general amnesty announced by the Taliban after coming to power.

"In several cases, the bodies were publicly displayed. This has exacerbated fear among this sizeable category of the population," she said.

Taliban Foreign Ministry spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi said the government was "fully committed" to the amnesty decree, and denied allegations that employees of the previous administration were being persecuted.

Anyone "found breaching the amnesty decree will be prosecuted and penalized," he said. "Incidents will be thoroughly investigated but unsubstantiated rumors should not be taken at face value."

Meanwhile, Amnesty International has called on the Taliban and the US government to fulfill their international obligations, and establish a clear and robust framework for civilians to request reparations for the harm they sustained during the conflict.

"The Taliban authorities now have the same legal obligation to provide reparations as the former government, and must address all issues of civilian harm seriously," Amnesty's Secretary General Callamard said.


(c) 2021, DW



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