III. VIOLATIONS OF THE LAWS OF WAR BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN AND BY THE AFGHAN RESISTANCE
By July and August 1990 when field research for this report was undertaken, the intense fighting that had characterized earlier years of the war had diminished in much of the Afghan countryside. Although indiscriminate attacks on civilian-populated areas have decreased, military operations by all parties continue to cause extensive civilian casualties. Government bombardments and missile attacks were reported from contested areas around Jalalabad and Khost, and in the Paghman hills northwest of Kabul, among other areas. Certain mujahidin commanders26 have also continued to launch rocket attacks against Kabul and other cities, causing heavy civilian casualties.
In their military operations, Afghan government forces have employed Scud missiles and other methods of warfare which cannot be targeted with sufficient accuracy to ensure that civilians are not placed at undue risk. In a number of incidents, these attacks have caused extensive civilian casualties. The use of weapons that cannot be directed at a specific military objective is a violation of the laws of war. There has been apparently little effort on the part of the government to warn civilians to evacuate the areas in advance of such attacks, which is required under the laws of war where feasible.
Summary executions of captured prisoners by government forces that was widespread in earlier years of the war and reports of reprisal killings of ordinary civilians suspected of supporting the mujahidin have also decreased. Nevertheless, such killings continue to take place, as described below. Militia operating in alliance with the government have also participated in the indiscriminate shelling of civilian targets and thesummary executions of mujahidin prisoners. If the government is sincere in its commitment to human rights, it should promptly investigate these and all such reports and prosecute those responsible for abuses.
Some mujahidin commanders, including those acting under the direction of the ISI, have launched indiscriminate rocket attacks on Kabul and other cities, killing civilians. The rockets used in these attacks are notoriously inaccurate; one variety has a fragmentation warhead that delivers up to 98 anti-personnel bomblets. The Pakistan ISI and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency have encouraged these attacks and have supplied weapons to commanders who undertake them. Some mujahidin forces have also summarily executed government soldiers captured in combat and members of rival mujahidin forces captured following internecine clashes.
All parties to the conflict have laid and continue to lay mines without adequate marking or mapping and without taking precautions to ensure that civilians are warned of minefields. The mines, the vast majority of which were laid by the Soviets and which number at least in the tens of thousands and possibly in the millions, are concentrated in dense agricultural and forest zones and along mountain passes. Those civilians most at risk are women and children grazing flocks or foraging for firewood. Roads that are used to transport returning refugees, among other things, have been mined by both government-sponsored militia and by mujahidin forces.
By mid-1990, the territory under government control was limited to the cities and their immediate environs, with several areas of the country, particularly in the north and along the Pakistani border, effectively under the control of mujahidin factions. Although many of these areas are still largely depopulated, refugees have begun to return to some provinces, particularly in the north, and in southern Qandahar province. In these areas, the functions of government are in the hands of the local shura, or council, made up of commanders and in some cases tribal elders or other civilians. In Takhar province, an area that was recaptured from government forces in 1988, Jamiat-e Islami commander Ahmad Shah Massoud has established an administrative structure that incorporates local civilians in the police force and shura meetings. According to recent press reports, he has also called for elections in the province to be held in early 1991. Massoud's administration forms partof the Supervisory Council of the North, which coordinates the activities of Jamiat-e Islami commanders in several northeastern provinces.
Fighting between mujahidin factions and Arab volunteer forces in some areas, notably Kunar, has led to the creation of competing shuras as the groups struggle for control over territory. Throughout 1990, there were bloody skirmishes in Kunar between Hezb-e Islami forces and those of Wahhabi leader, Jamil-ur-Rahman. Sporadic fighting continues to break out between other mujahidin factions, including Hezb-e Islami and Jamiat-e Islami forces in the northeast.
In other areas, particularly those bordering government-held territory, the government has negotiated agreements with former mujahidin, providing weapons and ceding control in exchange for a cease-fire. These militia27 often supplement government forces on the battlefield and have been used to create buffer zones around government-controlled cities. In exchange for providing support to government forces -- and agreeing not to fight the government -- militia commanders are permitted to control territory, and the government has neither the political nor the military capability to exercise its authority over them.
The Rules of War
In any armed conflict, all parties are responsible for respecting the "rules of war," the principles enshrined in the 1949 Geneva Conventions to which states can become party. The Republic of Afghanistan has acceded to the Geneva Conventions.
With the withdrawal of Soviet armed forces from Afghanistan, the hostilities there again assumed a purely non-international or internal character under international humanitarian law, i.e., the law of armed conflict. Accordingly, both the Afghan government and the various mujahidin forces are bound by those rules set forth in Common Article 3 common to the four 1949 Geneva Conventions ("Common Article 3") towhich Afghanistan is a High Contracting Party, and those customary international law rules applicable to all internal armed conflicts. While not directly applicable to the Afghan conflict, Protocol II additional to the 1949 Geneva Conventions ("Protocol II") does contain certain rules by which the conduct of hostilities in that conflict can be judged, even though Afghanistan is not a party to it.
Common Article 3 is automatically applicable as soon as a situation of internal armed conflict exists within the territory of a party to the Geneva Conventions. It imposes fixed legal obligations on the parties to such a conflict for the protection of persons not, or no longer, taking an active part in the hostilities by absolutely prohibiting:
1. violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;
2. taking of hostages;
3. outrages upon personal dignity, in particular humiliating and degrading treatment;
4. the passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court, affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.
Common Article 3 also imposes an obligation on the parties to the conflict to collect and care for the wounded and sick.
Unlike human rights law which applies only to violations committed by a government or its agents, Common Article 3 expressly binds both parties to the conflict, i.e., Afghan government and mujahidin forces. Moreover, the obligation to apply Common Article 3 is absolute: even if the mujahidin forces engage in summary executions of Afghan soldiers, or fire poorly aimed rockets into the heart of Kabul, the Afghan government is still obliged to prohibit "violence to life and person" of non-combatant civilians.
Significantly, Common Article 3 is the only provision of the four Geneva Conventions that directly applies to internal armed conflicts. The parties to such a conflict have no legal obligation to comply with theother articles of the Conventions that apply solely to an international armed conflict. The Afghan government, therefore, is not obliged to accord the mujahidin prisoner of war status and can punish captured guerrillas for the commission of crimes under its domestic laws. A guerrilla who kills a government soldier, for example, can be tried for murder, treason, sedition or other offenses, but the trials must be conducted in accordance with the standards set forth in Common Article 3.
Unlike the law governing international armed conflicts, Common Article 3 contains no rules regulating the means and methods of warfare. In addition, the terms "civilian" and "combatant" do not appear in any of the provisions of Common Article 3. Although Common Article 3 does not provide explicit protection for the civilian population from attacks, its prohibition of "violence to life and person" against "persons taking no active part in the hostilities" may be broad enough to encompass attacks by one side against civilians in territory controlled by the other side in an internal armed conflict.
The primary purpose of Common Article 3, however, is to ensure absolutely that anyone not or no longer taking part in hostilities is treated humanely. Persons protected by Common Article 3 include members of both government and mujahidin forces who surrender, are found wounded, sick, or unarmed, or are otherwise captured by the other side. Individual civilians are similarly protected, even if they had fought for the opposing party, or indirectly participated in the hostilities by providing either party with food or other logistical support. Under these circumstances, if these persons die as a result of execution or torture inflicted by a party to the conflict, their deaths are tantamount to murder.
Customary International Law Applicable to Internal Armed Conflict
Although Common Article 3 does not, by its terms, prohibit attacks against the civilian population in non-international armed conflicts, such attacks are prohibited by the customary laws of armed conflict. United Nations General Assembly Resolution 2444, Respect forHuman Rights in Armed Conflicts,28 adopted by unanimous vote on December 19, 1969, expressly recognized this customary principle of civilian immunity and its complementary principle requiring the warring parties to distinguish civilians from combatants at all times.29
Another fundamental principle of customary humanitarian law is the principle of humanity, which both complements and inherently limits the doctrine of military necessity. It is defined by the U.S. Air Force (Pamphlet on the Conduct of Armed Conflict and Air Operations) as forbidding:
... the infliction of suffering, injury or destruction not actually necessary for the accomplishment of legitimate military purposes. This principle of humanity results in a specific prohibition against unnecessary suffering and a requirement of proportionality ... The principle of humanity also confirms the basic immunity of civilian populations and civilians from being objects of attack during armed conflict.30
Protocol II goes beyond these general provisions to specify ways in which the civilian population should be protected in an area of conflict and states, "the civilian population as such, as well as individual civilians, shall not be the object of attack. Acts or threats of violence, the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population, areprohibited." (Those living near or among combatants who provide to them non-military support, such as food, are still considered civilians.)
Because Afghanistan has not ratified Protocol II, that instrument cannot directly bind either the government or mujahidin forces. It can still, however, provide standards for the conduct of internal armed conflict. By inference, Protocol II protects civilians against indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks. These include:
1. an attack by bombardment by any method or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separate and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other areas containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects; and
2. an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.31
The use of land mines, which by their nature tend to cause extensive civilian casualties, is one of the most devastating aspects of the war in Afghanistan. The principle of confining attacks to military targets also applies to the use of land mines, which is described in more detail below.
Throughout the Afghan conflict each of the provisions outlined above has been systematically violated by all parties. With the withdrawal of Soviet forces from the conflict, indiscriminate attacks by government forces on civilian population centers diminished but did not end; in some areas civilians continue to suffer disproportionately because of bombing raids and missile attacks.
A.VIOLATIONS OF THE LAWS OF WAR BY THE GOVERNMENT OF THE REPUBLIC OF AFGHANISTAN
Indiscriminate Attacks on Civilians by Afghan Government Forces
In the years following the Soviet invasion in December 1979, the shelling and aerial bombardment of rural villages and cities by government and Soviet forces32 was almost constant. The mass destruction caused by these bombing raids has been the primary cause of over one million civilian deaths during the course of the war and for the exodus of five million refugees from Afghanistan into Pakistan and Iran.
In the period just before the withdrawal of Soviet troops in February 1989, heavy bombing raids were reported in Qandahar and north of Kabul along the Salang Highway -- the route for the withdrawal of the Soviet troops. As many as 600 people were reported to have been killed when Soviet forces carpet-bombed villages in the Panjshir Valley and Salang Pass in January and February 1989.33 Scud missiles were also reported to have been used extensively in these attacks, with some 21 Scud missiles reportedly being launched between January 23 and February 8.34 A number of villages devastated in the attacks were far from the strategic Salang Highway; in the village of Khenj, some 60 kilometers from the highway, 70 people were reportedly killed by Scud missiles.35 Western journalists also cited reports of high-altitudebombing and shelling of villages north of Kabul in the weeks before the Soviet withdrawal.36
Since the Soviet withdrawal, bombing raids carried out by Afghan government forces have declined in much of the country. In fact, in certain areas, notably Qandahar, the provincial government has resisted responding to mujahidin attacks by return fire in order to bolster its image and win the support of civilians. However, in areas of concentrated fighting, missile attacks and shelling of civilian areas have continued. These attacks have been carried out in apparent reprisal for guerrilla assaults on government army positions or to protect strategic routes to the cities. In the latter cases, the attacks have been conducted in such a way that civilian-populated areas have been the primary targets. Such attacks are indiscriminate since they either are directed against civilians or are in disregard of laws protecting the civilian population from disproportionate attacks. They therefore flagrantly violate the most basic laws of war.
The weapons used by the Afghan government forces in such attacks have included Scud-Bs, which are unguided, long-range, surface-to-surface missiles,37 and Frog-7 rockets, which are unguided, short-range, surface-to-surface missiles.38 Other rockets, including the BM-21 and BM-22,39 have also been used.
Afghan government officials interviewed by Asia Watch have stated that when they fire rockets they aim only for military targets and that they understand the need to evacuate civilians from areas under fire.40 However, the weapons, as deployed in such attacks, particularly the Scud missiles, are so inaccurate that they constitute a means of combat which are as likely to hit civilians and civilian objects as military targets without distinction. Refugees interviewed by Asia Watch testified that they had not received advance warnings to evacuate the area.41 Some stated, however, that they had learned to anticipate reprisals following offensive operations by local mujahidin, and moved their families accordingly. Afghan Foreign Minister Abdul Wakil told an Asia Watch delegation in October 1990 that when the mujahidin were prepared to stop using rockets, the government would stop using Scuds.42 However, the government's obligation to abide by the laws of war is independent of any actions taken by the guerrillas. If Scuds are causing disproportionate civilian casualties, they should not be in use at all.
Afghan government officials also claim that many of the areas targeted are depopulated of civilians. A mujahidin commander interviewed by Asia Watch unintentionally confirmed this when hederided the government's efforts against the mujahidin, stating that in some provinces, the rockets were hitting areas long depopulated.43 In other provinces where intensive fighting has continued, the refugees driven into Pakistan interviewed by Asia Watch in 1989 and 1990 all reported that they left because of the bombing.
Aerial Bombardments and Shelling in Jalalabad District
The eastern city of Jalalabad came under siege by mujahidin forces in March 1989, with fierce fighting between government forces and the mujahidin through May 1990. The area remained contested and sporadic fighting continued during 1990 and into 1991. In July 1990, Asia Watch interviewed dozens of men and women who had fled the fighting and had settled in camps near Peshawar, Pakistan. They had been in the camps less than a year at the time of the interviews. Most of those we interviewed were relatives of mujahidin and freely admitted that the guerrillas had been present at the time the villages came under attack. If the principles of humanity and proportionality are to be observed, however, the existence of legitimate military targets in the area may not justify the kind of carpet-bombing that apparently took place.
One woman, Fawzia, 36, from Jalalabad district, described the government bombing that drove her to Pakistan in late 1989:44
In the weeks before the bombing, government tanks would come through about once a week. Then they started coming every day to search the area for about three hours. One day the bombing started around 9 or 10 at night. It lasted for about half an hour,then started again in the early morning for about one-and-a-half hours. My husband died in the bombardment, buried under the house. It was difficult to recognize his body, it was so badly crushed. My daughter, Nafaz Gul, two years old, was also crushed under the house. In other houses, there were dismembered bodies of children and dead animals. In all, about 20 families' houses in that area were destroyed. Some 45 people in all were killed, and more than that wounded, according to what the families here have said. The survivors all left. We heard bombing in other areas in days that followed. I came to this camp with three sons and one daughter.45
Zeiba, 26, came to Pakistan from Surkhrud, Ningrahar. The area was subjected to aerial bombing and shelling in March 1989:
My brother-in-law was hit by a shell so big that he had no heart left; there was only a big hole in his body. My husband, a day laborer, was also killed. He had been carrying grass to the cow when the planes came from the mountainside. The bombing went on six days and nights. Our family went and hid in a cave. Two other relatives were killed; another woman, Khatina, aged 20, was wounded in her back and was evacuated to Kabul where we heard that she died. One man working on the land was broken in two parts, a man named Akbar. The mosque was levelled and the mullahs46 died.
Madinah, 30, a widow with six children from the village of Bakhtan in Surkhrud district, came to Pakistan in mid-1989 after that area was bombed:
My paternal uncle, his two sons, another uncle and two of my mother's brothers died in one mud house. In another house, fivedied: a mother, daughter and three brothers. The rockets we saw were the length of a forearm.47
Another woman, Heisalallah, lost five of her sons and a four-year-old daughter in a bombardment in early 1990 in the village of Mimbaraq, Chaharbagh district. Her house and two neighbors' houses were destroyed; all her cows and donkeys were killed. She came to the camp with three daughters and two sons.
Rabow, a woman about 45 years old, had fled from Shewa, Jalalabad, an area that mujahidin aligned with Hekmatyar's Hezb-e Islami claimed as "liberated." She came to the camp some time in March 1989 after her village was bombed. Seven people in her family were killed, including her husband; Haji Gul, 40, a cousin; Shera Gul, 16, a niece; Naim, 30, a cousin; Ahsan Jan, 20, a cousin; and two others (relationship unknown), Lala Gul and Hansaman. She told Asia Watch:
There was nobody to bury the dead afterwards. We left immediately and don't know for sure what happened after. The bombs left big craters. Every house hit was destroyed. Bombing went on morning and night for a week. On the way to Pakistan, we traveled by night because of the bombing. It took eight weeks to get to Pakistan. Six to seven hundred came to Pakistan from our village.48
Another man, Zaman Ghani, a high school teacher from Shegai, saw Rabow's uncle, Haji Gul, try to move the body of Rabow's husband. As he did so, the body exploded. After that incident, he said, the people tied ropes around one leg of the bodies so that they could at least salvage one piece. The placing of grenades by Afghan government forces (and Soviet forces before their withdrawal) under the bodies of those killed in bombing raids had been reported throughout the war.49 The laws of war specifically prohibit booby-trapping dead bodies.50
One man showed us a scar on his stomach resembling a long cut that he said he had received from shrapnel. Gulmar Jana, a woman perhaps 50 or 60 years old, from Shewa, told Asia Watch that her husband, Hadi Gul, a farmer, had been killed in a bombing raid three months earlier along with their 18-year-old son, Fazlullah. Both had been in the house when the bombing started. The old man and Gulmar Jana described two kinds of bombs that were used: one that created "deep craters" and another that "scattered small bombs":
There was no one to bury them; the dead bodies were eaten by dogs. The bombing went on for two days. Some of the wounded went to Jalalabad; we don't know how many died there. We couldn't reach the graveyards to bury the dead because of the army outposts between the village and the cemetery.51
In the incidents cited above, there was apparently no effort on the part of the government to warn civilians of the impending attack so that they would be able to evacuate the area. While we are not in a position to determine whether the circumstances attending these bombardments justified not giving civilians advance notice of these attacks, the evidence suggests that the government rarely, if ever, gives such notice. In any event, such notice would not free the attacking party from observing the rule of proportionality in attacking military objects.
Aerial Bombardment and Shelling in Other Districts
Refugees from the Barakzai tribe in Faryab, a province in northwest Afghanistan, described how they had twice been driven to seek refuge because of government aerial bombardment and shelling. They were first driven out of Faryab in late 1988 when Soviet and Afghan government forces, with the support of an Uzbek militia force aligned with the government, encircled the area. According to Nasruddin, the tribal leader:
From our family, around eight people were killed; the other families lost 17 or 18. As soon as we buried them we left, but the bombing continued in the mountains on the way to Badghis.
Another member of the family continued:
Last year two or three days after 'Id [an Islamic holy day] the mortars and bombing started. We left Badghis, traveling at night to avoid the fighting.52
A number of members of the clan had been injured, apparently by the shelling. One man showed us his foot, partially severed and twisted. He said the injury was caused by shrapnel from the bombs.
In other cases, the bombing operations are clearly reprisals against guerrilla strongholds following attacks on government army posts. While we are not in a position to determine whether all of these attacks were indiscriminate, the numbers of civilians killed and the extent of the damage to civilian objects suggests that the government forces launched these attacks in disregard of laws protecting civilians from disproportionate attacks.
Asia Watch interviewed an old man who arrived in the Nasirbagh camp in early July 1990 after walking all the way from Mazina where he had lived since mid-1989. He described the bombings that had twice driven him to find refuge. Originally from Zarkhel, he had left after the Soviets bombed his village there. He told us, "If the mujahidin don't attack, the government doesn't retaliate." He described the bombings of civilian-populated villages in Zarkhel and Mazina:
The bombing started around supper time. My son was killed and Zarkhel razed to the ground. In Mazina, my other son was injured by shrapnel, but he's now recovered. Then the soldiers came in with tanks, so many we couldn't count them.53
In another incident, a massive bombardment at the end of May 1989 in Paghman followed a local guerrilla attack on a militia outpost. Asia Watch interviewed a number of men who had left the area at that time. The bombardment apparently followed a joint operation by forces aligned with Hekmatyar, Khales and Sayyaf to attack a government militia post. One of those interviewed said that the attacks appeared to be timed to cause heavy civilian casualties:
The bombing began after the attack; we had known what their response would be. It started at night, with striped planes dropping bombs that exploded into four or five bomblets. They pick times to bomb when people are crowded together, making meals or at prayer. They look for smoke coming up, a sign of cooking, that people are at home eating.54
One of the men, Yusuf, stated, "In these situations, we know it will happen. We shift our families out of the area."55
Summary Executions and Reprisal Killings
During the Soviet participation in the hostilities in Afghanistan, bombing raids were frequently followed by sweep operations in which Soviet and government troops conducted searches for suspected mujahidin and their supporters. During those search operations, civilians were frequently arrested and sometimes executed on the spot. It was not unusual for an entire village to be destroyed, and many of its residents killed.56 Such operations have greatly decreased since the Soviet withdrawal; however, Asia Watch interviewed witnesses who described a number of incidents in which suspected guerrillas and civilians supporting them were summarily executed.
Khanum Jan and her sister-in-law Zarmina from Siqh Sang, Jalalabad, described the executions which they said took place in late 1989 after the bombing of their village:
Afterwards the Afghan militia came and separated the men in the village, the old from the young. They brought out everyone in front of the mosque and shot the young ones who had carried guns. In our family, the following men were shot:
Gulzar, a nephew, 22 years old.
Khan Mohammad, a cousin, 30 years old, married with children.
Ali Khan, a stepson, 28, married with one child.
Anat Khan, a stepson, 25.
Mayin Khan, 18, the child of a cousin.
Ruidar, a cousin, 20, married with no children.
Khwarai, nephew, 35.
Malai Khel, about 30, son-in-law.
All of them were members of Hezb-e Islami (Hekmatyar).57
Ordinary civilians have sometimes been the victims of summary execution or reprisal killing because they are suspected of supporting the mujahidin. Heisalallah, an old woman from Chaharbagh district, Jalalabad, described the killings that followed the bombing of her village of Mimbaraq, in early 1990. She stated that the army took her husband, Khodai Nurshah, aged 30, a day laborer; Arif Mohammed, her brother-in-law, aged 9; and Sheengul, her father-in-law; along with several other people and poured gasoline on them, because they were accused of giving the mujahidin food:
One night at midnight, the bombing started and lasted for about two days. My house and two other houses nearby were destroyed, so were all the green trees. Then soldiers with tanks came into the village. At 7 in the morning, soldiers came and asked my husband, "Why did you give food to Gailani? Who came to your house? Which commander was it?" Then they took the two men and the little boy in a black car and then to a public square about two kilometers away and burned them alive. Many people saw it although I didn't. Two other people were also burned: Mateen, a neighbor, who died, and Khaisan, a 20-year-old man, who survived, only now he has no hair and looks like he's 90.
She said her brother was fighting with the NIFA (Gailani) faction of the mujahidin. "When the mujahidin come, you do as they say. When the army comes, you do as they want."58
Halim Jan, a prisoner who had been captured in 1984 and who was released from Mahabas jail in Jalalabad in 1989, described the summary execution of prisoners he had witnessed when he was first detained:
Usually they tied their hands, blindfolded them, put them in an ambulance, and drove away and shot them. At the beginning, maybe 25 people a day were executed ... They would bring in herds of people at a time.59
He claimed that the practice continued after the Soviet withdrawal, but cited no specific examples. Asia Watch was not able to confirm whether summary executions of this kind have continued to take place in Jalalabad prison. Such executions without charge or trial would constitute extremely grave violations of Common Article 3.
Forced Conscription of Prisoners
Particularly after the Soviet withdrawal, the Afghan government, anticipating that the resistance forces would launch a major attack on Jalalabad, released a number of prisoners before the expiration of their sentences and inducted them immediately into the army. The practice of releasing prisoners directly into the army started several years earlier. The prisoners were released under Decree No. 37, dated April 26, 1987, of the Presidium of the Revolutionary Council, which declared that "prisoners who are eligiblefor service in the armed forces should be remitted." According to Amnesty International, the prisoners were told that the remaining part of their prison sentences would be spent in military service; in fact, that service amounted to "a punitive practice similar to continued imprisonment."60 Asia Watch interviews with former conscripts indicated that the conscripts were treated more like prisoners than soldiers.
Sayyed Rahman from Shegi, Shewa, a man about 24 years old who was arrested when he was about 16, was released early from Mahabas prison in Jalalabad and immediately inducted into the Afghan army shortly before the Soviet withdrawal when the Afghan army faced an acute shortage of men. Along with other former prisoners, he remained under restriction while in the army. For example, he stated that the prisoners were not allowed to go anywhere alone; even when they went to relieve themselves, a guard would stand with his foot on the prisoner's shirttail. They were confined to military barracks No. 81, near Jalalabad, the boundaries of which had been mined. According to Sayyed Rahman, a number of prisoners were killed by the mines when they tried to escape.61
In addition to its regular defense forces, the government uses paramilitary forces from various tribal groups to supplement its security around the cities and to provide extra forces on the battlefield. In some cases, these militia are former mujahidin forces that have signed protocols with the government giving them control over areas of the country as well as cash and weapons in exchange for a cease-fire. Although the Ministry of State Security signs the protocols with the militia,62 these groups operate outside the chain of command ofthe ordinary armed forces. The government effectively abandons any effort to assume administrative control over these groups while providing them with the same range of weapons available to its regular forces. The members of these militias are combatants for whose conduct the armed forces are ultimately responsible, and they are bound to conduct their military operations in accordance with the laws of war.
President Najibullah told Asia Watch that the militia forces are needed to "protect civilians" and "prevent Pakistan from using these people against us."63 In some cases, the Ministry of Defense works with the local tribal jirgas (Pashtun tribal assemblies) to organize militia.64 Government officials acknowledged to Asia Watch that some militias have robbed returning refugees, but stated that the army had been instructed to prevent such abuses. Although the attorney general is apparently authorized to take action against militia members who violate the law, there is no indication that any such action has been taken.
In fact, independent organizations have reported that when discipline problems with the militia arise, the government disowns any responsibility for them.65 The Jozjani militia, an Uzbek force which has been provided with tanks and other advanced weapons by the government, was initially deployed in Qandahar but reportedly engaged in a number of abuses, including looting the local hospital, until the government moved it back to guard the outskirts of Kabul. Refugees in Quetta stated that the Uzbek forces had participated in searching homes in the villages, looting property and arresting young men to serve in the army.66 Other militia operating in the Qandahar area, including those under the command of Rashid Dustam and Esmat Muslim, have been accused of looting civilian property. Refugees described the indiscriminate shelling of civilian areas inFaryab and Badghis by both Afghan government and Uzbek militia forces.
Militia have also laid mines without marking or providing maps of minefields. Because a number of the areas, including border crossings, to which refugees are returning are under the control of militia, the use of mines by these groups poses a great risk to civilians. For example, the road from the Iranian border to Herat, which is used by returning refugees, is heavily mined by both mujahidin forces and by local militia. According to independent sources interviewed by Asia Watch, trucks carrying refugees frequently strike these mines, causing civilian casualties.67
The militia also detain enemy combatants and civilian prisoners. One militia commander in the Herat area, who was formerly with Jamiat-e Islami, told Asia Watch that the commander and the deputy commander have the authority to settle disputes and that in criminal cases, the judgement of the qazi, or Islamic judge, is final. Before the militia commander signed the protocol with the government, prisoners were detained in jails or detention camps maintained by the commander; now prisoners sentenced by the qazi are imprisoned in government jails.68 A.B Sarwary, the attorney general's representative in Herat, told Asia Watch that an attorney from the office attends the militia court proceedings; but he confirmed that the government accepts prisoners from the militia without questioning the verdict or the proceeding. Detainees charged with political crimes, including captured members of mujahidin forces, are sent to the National Security Court for trial.69
B.VIOLATIONS OF THE LAWS OF WAR BY ELEMENTS OF THE AFGHAN RESISTANCE
A number of mujahidin commanders, many of whom have been recruited by the Pakistan ISI have launched indiscriminate rocket attacks on Kabul and other cities, causing high civilian casualties. The ISI and the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency have encouraged these and other attacks and have provided U.S.-supplied weapons to commanders who agree to undertake them.
A number of mujahidin forces have summarily executed government soldiers captured in combat, including some who surrendered on the understanding that they would be given safe passage. Mujahidin forces from certain factions have also assassinated rival resistance leaders and have executed mujahidin prisoners following clashes between rival resistance forces. Torture of detainees in mujahidin prisons is reported to be common.
Many mujahidin forces lay mines without taking precautions to ensure that civilians are warned of minefields. Often they themselves forget where the mines were laid. Because of the divisions within the resistance, the minimal mapping that is done is not made accessible to all parties. Such precautions are required under international humanitarian law, which provides for the protection of civilians against weapons, such as land mines, which may have indiscriminate effects.
Indiscriminate Attacks on Civilians
Following the completion of the withdrawal of the Soviet forces from Afghanistan in February 1989, a number of mujahidin commanders launched a series of offensives against government forces that included the indiscriminate rocketing of government-controlled cities. The first target of the offensive was Jalalabad, which came under siege by resistance forces from March to May 1989. Journalists who visited the city reported widespread destruction to civilian objects:
Large sections have been bombarded and abandoned, while others, especially the mud-walled sections of the old town, have been shattered by the unrelenting rocket and artillery attacksof rebels ... some streets have hardly any homes that have not been hit by rockets or shells ... The city's main high school, its university, its courthouse, its prison, at least two hospitals, and several major government buildings appeared to have been so badly damaged as to be unusable.70
U.S. officials played down reports of devastation to residential areas. In testimony before the House Subcommittee on Asian and Pacific Affairs on June 14, 1989, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Near East and South Asian Affairs Edward W. Gnehm stated, "It is our firm belief that most of the insurgent groups have specifically avoided targeting the civilian areas, and ... that destruction is not nearly as large-scale as had been feared."71 According to Afghan government sources, however, 500 civilians were killed and more than 2,000 injured in rocket attacks and shelling of Jalalabad in the two months after the offensive began in early March 1989.72
In the first nine months after the Soviet withdrawal in February 1989, Western aid experts based in Kabul reported that at least 600 people died in guerrilla rocket attacks on Kabul, over 90 percent of them civilians.73 Western relief agencies estimated that by the end of 1989, 1,000 civilians had died in rocket attacks on Kabul alone.74 In an interview published in the Washington Post in July 1989, Jean-Jacques Fresard, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross mission in Kabul at the time, stated that 99 percent of those killed in the rocket attacks had been civilians.75
Since the siege of Jalalabad, resistance commanders have continued to fire rockets and surface-to-surface missiles into government-controlled cities, particularly Kabul, despite the high civilian casualties caused by these attacks in relation to the importance of the military targets. The mujahidin have also used mortars in these attacks. These mortars reportedly require daily readjustment to be accurate; failure on the part of the guerrillas to do so may also explain some of the high civilian casualties.76
Most of the civilian casualties in Kabul are caused by indiscriminately deployed rockets, primarily Egyptian-made Sakr rockets, supplied to the mujahidin through the ISI and purchased with funds from the U.S. The Sakr rocket that is used most extensively disintegrates into high-velocity shrapnel hurled from the site of impact at a 60 degree angle.77 In the course of the Asia Watch mission in late July and early August 1990, some 12 to 20 rockets struck Kabul every day. Asia Watch representatives visited the sites of several rocket explosions in Kabul in July 1990.
One such rocket exploded on a street in a residential neighborhood of Kabul on July 22, 1990. Shrapnel shattered the windows of a pharmacy; witnesses stated that the owner and a customer who had just left the store were killed. At about the same time, a second rocket struck a taxi on a nearby street, leaving it a charred shell; local residents told Asia Watch that one passenger was killed, another three injured. In these incidents, the rockets landed far from the airport and any other visible military targets.
The other kind of Sakr rocket which has been fired into Kabul are the M42 and M46 which have a range of between 20 and 30 kilometers and deliver between 42 and 98 antipersonnel bomblets thatare packed inside each other in rows in the nose cone of the rocket.78 In mid-1989, approximately 25 percent of the rockets fired into Kabul were of this kind; since then the rocket has been used far less frequently.79
The bomblets have a lethal range of 15 meters. According to munitions experts, 70 percent of them explode on impact and the rest remain active on the ground. The bomblets are light in weight and are attached to a loop of tape that allows some of them to become snared in tree branches and to fall to the ground later when dislodged by wind. After rains, the bomblets may also sink into the ground.80
The Sakr is also a "blind" rocket and cannot be accurately aimed. The laws of war specifically prohibit the use of weapons "which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective." The Land Mines Protocol further prohibits the use of remotely-delivered mines81 except in the following situations:
-- when mines are only used within an area which is itself a military objective or which contains military objectives,
-- when their location can be accurately recorded or when an effective self-destructing mechanism is used on each such mine, when the mines no longer serve a military purpose,
-- when the civilian population is given advance warning of the delivery of such mines, unless circumstances do not permit.82
In the vast majority of cases, the rockets fired into Kabul and other cities have not struck military targets or areas that contain them.83 The bomblets that are scattered by the Sakr rockets contain no self-destruct mechanism, nor is the civilian population forewarned of these attacks.
In early October 1990, a number of resistance commanders, under the direction of the ISI, undertook a major offensive against Kabul. The rocketing of the city intensified during this period, and civilian casualties rose proportionately. In its October 1990 newsletter, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported that rocketing caused heavy civilian casualties not only inside the city, but in Mir Bacha Kot, in mujahidin-controlled territory 40 kilometers north of Kabul.84 The report describes some of the patients received by its hospital on October 18:
The new patients, most of them civilian and none older than 22, lie moaning on stretchers.... One of them is a very young man bleeding heavily from serious abdominal and leg injuries. He dies on the operating table. Another is a four-year-old girl who has a shrapnel wound to her brain.... The number ofpatients in the hospital soars to an alarming 228 as rockets continue to fall on the city and fighting goes on in the outlying areas.85
Relief workers and members of the diplomatic community that Asia Watch interviewed in Kabul in July and August 1990 confirmed that civilian casualties from the attacks remained very high. The U.N. Special Rapporteur on Afghanistan, Felix Ermacora, stated in his October 1990 report that official sources in Kabul have stated that 4,771 civilians were killed and 11,756 were wounded as a result of rocket attacks on Kabul between March and October 1990.86 In December 1990, the ICRC reported that about 50 percent of the wounded treated at its surgical hospital in Kabul were women and children under 14 years of age who had been wounded in rocket attacks.87
The following list of rocket attacks represents only a handful of the incidents in which civilians have been killed in Kabul. The information here is all derived from non-governmental sources:
· On August 16, 1990, a rocket struck the compound of the ICRC orthopedic center, killing two patients and wounding an ICRC employee and 12 other patients, three seriously.88
· On July 30, 1990, the daughter of an Afghan employee of the U.N. Development Program was killed in a rocket attack as she was walking home from school.89
· On April 12, 1990, 12 children and two adults were killed when a rocket exploded at a bus stop. 90
· On November 26, 1989, a Sakr-30 exploded in the center of Kabul, killing 25 people including traders in a bazaar, patients outside a clinic and laborers. A second rocket exploded at a primary school, killing 13 schoolboys.91
· On October 28-29, 1989, rockets exploded in residential areas, killing 16 people.92
· On August 6, 1989, rockets exploded in a vegetable market and a residential neighborhood, killing 10 people.93
· On July 31, 1989, rockets exploded at a bus stop and an auto repair shop, killing 21 people.94
· On July 22, 1989, rockets exploded in a bazaar, in an alley beside a mosque, and at the Ministry of Planning building, killing more than 22 people.95
Asia Watch interviewed a doctor who had worked at the civilian hospital in Qandahar through 1989 who stated that as a result of mujahidin attacks on the city, civilian casualties inside the city had increased in late 1989-90 to the point where they were greater than inareas of fighting outside the city.96 Meanwhile, mujahidin attacks on Qandahar also intensified, and by mid-1990, 50 to 150 missiles and mortars landed on the city nearly every other day, with casualties averaging 40 a week.97 The mujahidin commanders responsible for the attacks have been primarily Hezb-e Islami and factions commanded by Abdul Rasul Sayyaf.98 According to a Qandahar resident, "When the rocketing picks up, we know Hekmatyar or Sayyaf is inspecting the troops."99
Commanders in the Qandahar area interviewed by Asia Watch argued that they aimed at military cantonments and government buildings. According to a Qandahar resident, these military targets are surrounded by civilian areas. Westerners working for relief agencies said that much of the civilian hospital had been destroyed by the shelling.100
When asked why they were shelling civilian areas, some commanders responded that the civilians "should leave."101 A commander in the Qandahar area also said civilians were warned beforehand of planned attacks;102 however other Qandahar sources reported that they had no knowledge in advance of the attacks.103 One Afghan relief worker told Asia Watch that some commanders used to send letters into the cities warning people of planned attacks, but that they no longer did so.104 Even if such warnings wereprovided, however, the weapons used in the attacks are so inaccurate that damage to civilian objects would be almost unavoidable.
Commanders interviewed by Asia Watch denied that they were under pressure to launch attacks against the cities, arguing instead that if they did not rocket the cities it would amount to a de facto cease fire. They also contend that the rocketing is a means of keeping up pressure on the government.105 Other Asia Watch sources told us that since early 1989, the ISI has increased pressure on commanders to undertake attacks and has supplied payments for attacks -- a system which one source described as "mercenary warfare."106 Payments for attacks reportedly amount to Rs. 20,000 (U.S. $1,000) per attack; the nearer to Kabul the commander fires, the greater the payment.107 In Peshawar, Asia Watch examined reports submitted by commanders to ISI officials in which they acknowledged receipt of such payments. We obtained a photocopy of one report dated May 11, 1990 which had been submitted to ISI officials by Amir Sayed Ahmed of Deh Sabaz district (an area north of Kabul), a commander allied with Sayyaf. In the report, Sayed Ahmed described a two-hour attack on Kabul in which 14 Sakr-20 rockets were fired and "35 communists" killed.
Asia Watch sources have also described efforts by ISI officials to pressure commanders in the Qandahar area to blow up the Dahla Dam, 18 miles north of Qandahar on the Arghandab River -- an operation that would flood the city and cost hundreds of civilian lives. Commanders with families in the region have resisted the pressure and refused to attack the dam. In May 1989, Asia Watch interviewed a member of the Qandahar shura who stated that the ISI had offered commanders money and weapons if they would blow up the dam saying that then the mujahidin would be able to easily kill "thecommunists."108 Colonel Faizan, the head of the ISI in Quetta at that time, reportedly had encouraged the attack.109 The commanders refused and have since posted a guard at the dam site to prevent any such attack.110
Afghan relief workers in Quetta told Asia Watch that in a series of meetings with tribal elders and regional commanders from the Qandahar area in late June 1990, the U.S. envoy to the resistance, Peter Tomsen, told area commanders that the U.S. Congress "wanted to see progress" before committing the U.S. to further assistance. Unless accompanied by a clear condemnation of indiscriminate attacks on civilians, such statements may be seen as encouraging such attacks. Tribal elders at the meeting reportedly replied that they favored a settlement, and elections but not continued fighting.111
Since early 1989, ISI officials have also pressured the Qandahar shura to shell the city of Qandahar and its airport, promising U.S.-supplied weapons in return. The commanders have insisted that the civilians be evacuated first, and that the ISI make arrangements to provide for them. When the ISI refused to do so and instead formed a second shura with commanders who were willing to shell the city, the first shura, which was one of the few resistance institutions headed by a civilian, collapsed.112 In November 1990, the ISI reportedly supplied rockets to a Sayyaf commander, Qari Abdul Aziz, who launched a major attack on the city of Qandahar, causing heavy civilian casualties. Area commanders have since expelled him from Qandahar.113
Summary Executions of Prisoners
Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions prohibits the summary execution of prisoners. In Afghanistan, the difficulties inherent in taking enemy combatants prisoner in a guerrilla war are further complicated by divisions within the resistance. According to one leading Afghan intellectual:
There is no one voice or center of power in the mujahidin. If a soldier surrenders to Gailani, his life is threatened by Mojaddidi's forces, who will ask, "Why did you surrender to Gailani?" If he surrenders to Jamiat, then he is pursued and killed by Hezb. If he surrenders to Hezb, he is attacked by Khales or Sayyaf.... There is no one voice who can declare convincingly that an amnesty for all will mean a safe and secure surrender. So a Kabul soldier who wants to surrender does not know to whom he can surrender and who will be able to protect his life. And for how long.114
The Tarin Kot and Qalat Massacres
In October 1990, following a major offensive by a number of mujahidin commanders from various parties, the provincial capitals of Qalat and Tarin Kot came under siege. On October 4, the governor of Oruzgan province, Abdul Shakoor, surrendered in Tarin Kot along with the Afghan government garrison. Some 95 soldiers who surrendered were taken into custody by mujahidin guerrillas and executed.115 Another group of soldiers who either surrendered or were captured at Qalat, numbering as many as 170, were alsoexecuted.116 According to press reports, the soldiers had been promised safe passage by the guerrillas.117
According to U.S. government officials, in November 1990 Peter Tomsen wrote to both the AIG and the commanders' shura condemning the incidents and calling on all parties to adhere to the Geneva Conventions.
The Torkham Massacre
In November 1988, 141 soldiers from the Afghan government garrison at Torkham, 40 kilometers from the Pakistan border near Peshawar, surrendered to the Pakistani authorities. They were then handed over to mujahidin forces under Yunis Khales and 77 of them were summarily executed and their bodies packed into tea crates and dumped across the border. A second group which surrendered stipulated beforehand that they would only surrender to the President of the AIG, Sibghatullah Mojaddidi. According to independent reports, he accepted 200 of them, all of whom had immediate access to the ICRC. Most were later released.118
Engineer Mohammad Es'haq, political officer of Jamiat-e Islami, admitted to Asia Watch that prisoners captured in the field were sometimes executed, stating that:
You sometimes face difficult questions. Suppose you have a large number of prisoners and the enemy arrives and you know if the enemy gets to them, you'll have all of them fighting against you. What do you do? You fire. It's different if the number of prisoners is small or the enemy is far away. Then you can save them for exchange. But with a highly mobile army in combat, it's difficult.119
The treatment of government soldiers depends on the commander who captures them or to whom they defect. Asia Watch interviewed a mujahidin representative in Peshawar who described the February 7, 1989 capture of five army defectors outside Jalalabad. The soldiers' officer, who had established contact with the local mujahidin commander, handed them over to the commander at a government checkpoint outside Jalalabad airport. The soldiers, all of whom had been conscripted into the army after a sweep by the security forces in Kabul, were reportedly sent to Peshawar. Mujahidin sources told Asia Watch that because the commander knew the detainees' fathers and was "certifying them," they would have no difficulties.120
In another case witnessed by an Asia Watch representative in 1989, a mujahid in Ningrahar discovered a suspected member of the local militia, an old man, and brought him to the local commander for questioning. One of the mujahidin threatened him with beating and hanging him by the feet if he did not reveal the location of a weapons cache. In exchange for the arms, he supposedly received the price for one-fifth of the weapons he had handed over, because he was "one of five brothers in the militia."121
Rival mujahidin forces have also summarily executed mujahidin prisoners they have captured.
The Farkhar Massacre
On July 9, 1989, members of the Hezb-e Islami (Hekmatyar) ambushed members of the Jamiat-e Islami in the Farkhar Valley as thelatter were returning from a strategy meeting in Takhar province in northern Afghanistan. According to Richard MacKenzie, an American journalist who was in the area at the time, and to other reports, five Jamiat-e Islami members were killed in the ambush, while some 25 who were taken into custody by the Hezb-e Islami forces, led by commander Sayyed Jamal, were summarily executed afterwards.122 The prisoners taken were divided into two groups, those from Takhar and those from Kunduz, and held in custody for 24 hours. During this time the men from Takhar were reportedly tortured -- some by having their eyes gouged out, others by having gunpowder poured in their eyes and lit.123 Those who were still alive were then executed. After the Takhar men were killed, the men from Kunduz were reportedly told that they were free to go, but as they prepared to leave, Hezb-e Islami forces opened fire on them, shooting at least five of them in the back.124
On August 5, Hekmatyar rejected claims that his followers had carried out the killings on his orders, arguing that a fight had broken out following a local quarrel between the two groups, and that casualties had resulted on both sides. According to U.S. diplomatic sources and Western journalists, Jamiat-e Islami representatives claimed that intercepted radio communications revealed the killings were sanctioned by one of Hekmatyar's closest deputies in Peshawar. Jamiat-e Islami forces subsequently captured and tried members of the Hezb-e Islami responsible for the killings.125
C. MINES - VIOLATIONS BY ALL PARTIES TO THE CONFLICT
Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed or maimed in Afghanistan by anti-personnel mines that remain scattered or buried infields, mountainsides, riverbanks, and in villages and cities throughout the country. Most of these mines were placed by Soviet and Afghan government forces before the Soviet withdrawal. As one refugee told an Asia Watch source in 1989, "The ground will be fighting us for years after the Soviets have left."126 Government forces continue to lay anti-personnel and anti-vehicular mines.
The resistance forces also have used both anti-personnel and anti-vehicular land mines. In most cases, they have not recorded the location of the mines, as required under international law. In cases where the location of the mines is known, information is not shared because of the deep rivalries among resistance factions and between resistance forces and various tribal militias. Often information about the location of mines is in the hands of individual commanders. If a commander dies, the information dies with him.127 In general, mines placed without customary precautions, and which are unrecorded, unmarked, or which are not designated to destroy themselves within a reasonable time, may also be blind weapons in relation to time, and are thus prohibited.128 Contact land mines may also violate prohibitions on the use of weapons "the primary purpose of which is to spread terror among the civilian population."129
The most explicit source of international law governing the use of land mines and booby traps is the Land Mines Protocol, part of a 1981 U.N. Convention.130 The basic purpose of the protocol is to give effect to two fundamental customary principles of the laws of war, namely that (1) the right of the parties to an armed conflict to adopt methods or means of warfare is not unlimited, and (2) that the use of weapons, projectiles, or materials calculated to cause superfluous injury or unnecessary suffering is prohibited. Another customaryprinciple of the laws of war -- the protection of the civilian population against the effects of hostilities -- is cited in the Convention as well. These international principles are expressly recognized in United Nations Resolution 2444.
The Land Mines Protocol calls upon combatants to warn civilians of the placement of land mines whenever possible. Since many of the provisions of the Land Mines Protocol embody, reaffirm, or implement these same principles, the forces of both the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan resistance should regard those provisions, independent of that instrument, as part of the customary laws of war which mutually binds them in their conduct of hostilities, even though the government of Afghanistan has not signed the covenant or the protocol.
The thousands131 of anti-personnel land mines in Afghanistan placed by the Soviets were often deliberately aimed at the civilian population and were not for any military objectives, in clear violation of the laws of war. During sweeps through the countryside, Soviet troops left mines in food bins and other parts of houses, in mosques, on roads and in grazing areas.132
During the Soviet participation in the conflict, thousands of "butterfly"133 mines, known technically as PFM-1 and PFM-1s, were randomly disseminated by helicopter over large areas of the country.134 Because the mine is so lightweight, it is easily carriedby rain or melting snow; there are no records for the locations of these mines, nor is there any idea how many there may be. The method by which the mines were disseminated violates of the Land Mines Protocol because it is not possible for "measures [to be] taken to protect civilians from their effects, for example, the posting of warning signs, the posting of sentries, the issue of warnings or the provision of fences."135
According to Asia Watch sources in Pakistan and Afghanistan, the butterfly mines have not been dropped since the Soviet withdrawal;136 however, of the thousands that were, most are still active because the PFM-1, which was more widely used, has no built-in self-destruct mechanism.137 The Soviets have claimed that the PFM-1s self-detonates after six months; however, mine experts have not been able to confirm this.138
According to Rae McGrath, head of the non-governmental Mines Advisory Group in Peshawar, the greatest hazards to non-combatants derive from other land mines, including the PMN, the PMD and the POMZ-2 anti-personnel devices.139 As to these, "there have been very few attempts to mark those mined areas where marking would have been possible by either Soviet or regime [Afghangovernment] forces."140 Afghan government officials told Asia Watch that they possess maps showing where Soviet forces planted mines. Yet they have not engaged in efforts to inform civilians in those areas where the mines are located.141
Among the mines planted by the resistance forces, one of the most lethal goes by the name Technovar. It is an all plastic mine of Italian design manufactured without license in Egypt. Purchased with American funds, it has been supplied to the resistance by the ISI. Because it is entirely plastic, it is undetectable by mine detectors. The firing pin and spring are made of metal but even these are masked by a rubber ring. The Technovar anti-personnel mines are designed to maim; the anti-vehicular can destroy a tank. The latter contains six kilograms of high explosives, and the most frequent casualties have been civilian trucks.142
Mines have been dug up and sold or hoarded for later use. Refugees have reported that in order to avoid minefields, they must obtain the assistance of local resistance leaders in each area through which they travel. A demining expert told Asia Watch that the nature of old tribal conflicts would be completely changed this way, as such groups gain the ability to seal off whole areas and major roads.143
The first major program to clear Afghanistan's minefields was launched by the United Nations in 1989. Headed by former U.N.Assistant Secretary-General Benon Savan, the Office of the Coordinator for Afghanistan (UNOCA),144 based in Pakistan, has focused primarily on training Afghans in mine awareness and clearance. Unfortunately, until now, efforts have been slow to achieve results, largely because of continued fighting in parts of the country and because of the lack of a coordinated plan among U.N. agencies and officials overseeing the program. Independent projects, including the Mines Advisory Group based in Peshawar, have had more success in conducting reliable surveys and training teams to destroy mines. In Kabul, an independent British organization known as the HALO Trust has also begun a mine awareness program and has carried out a pilot clearance project to test the accuracy of Soviet maps.145
29 The preamble to this resolution clearly states that these fundamental humanitarian law principles apply "in all armed conflict," meaning both international and internal armed conflicts. Furthermore, the International Committee of the Red Cross has long regarded these principles as basic rules of the laws of war that apply in all armed conflicts. The United States government also has expressly recognized these principles as declaratory of existing customary international law.
31 These prohibitions are spelled out in Protocol I, but the most authoritative commentary on Protocol II states they are "inferentially included" within the prohibition of making civilians the object of attack. See M. Bothe, K. Partsch and W. Solf, New Rules for Victims of Armed Conflict -- Commentary on the Two 1977 Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 (Geneva: 1982) p. 671
36 See James Rupert, "Rebels Send Food Convoy to Kabul," Washington Post, January 27, 1989; Elaine Sciolino, "Afghan Campaign Said to Intensify," New York Times, January 21, 1989; Richard Weintraub, "`300 People Died' in One Village," Washington Post, February 5, 1989. In an interview with John Newhouse, Soviet journalist Artyom Borovik, who had reported on the war for the liberal Soviet weekly magazine Ogonyok, stated: "We had an operation scheduled for January 23-26, 1989 ... Najibullah was afraid that the rebels would close the road linking Kabul to the Soviet Union ... Hundreds of Afghan women, children and old men were killed." See "Chronicling the Chaos," New Yorker, December 31, 1990, p. 57.
37 The Scud-B SS-1 missile is a Soviet-made missile about 12 meters long which carries a 1,000 kilogram warhead and has a maximum range of 280 kilometers. In Afghanistan, the missiles have carried high-explosive warheads. (They may also be fitted with nuclear or chemical warheads.) The missiles are highly destructive and have a CEP (Circular Error Probable -- the standard measure of accuracy) of 1000 yards. For further information on the specifications of weaponry used in the war, see the guide to Afghanistan: The Making of U.S. Policy 1973-1990 (Alexandria VA: National Security Archives and Chadwyck-Healey, Inc. Forthcoming in March, 1991). The CEP estimate cited wasprovided by the Center for Defense Studies, Washington, D.C.
39 The BM-21 is a multiple rocket launcher which is capable of creating a "high concentration of firepower in a very short time." In Afghanistan, the BM-21 has been used to destroy agricultural land and may carry incendiary sub-munitions. The BM-22 delivers rockets that deliver high-explosive bomblets or mines. Because of its delivery system, the rocket is sometimes described as a "cluster bomb." See the guide to Afghanistan: The Making of U.S. Policy 1973-1990.
44 Asia Watch was not able to confirm precise dates for any of the bombing incidents described by refugees. They described incidents that had taken place in the months before their arrival in Pakistan. Many of the refugees were from the Jalalabad area and some of the incidents appear to have taken place in the months following the 1989 battle for Jalalabad city. (For a further discussion of the battle, see p.43-44).
78 Because of the rocket's "cluster" delivery system, the rocket is sometimes described as a "cluster bomb." Experts in Kabul told Asia Watch that the precise number of bomblets varies, making it difficult for explosives experts trying to clear them to know how many of these bomblets they must locate.
79 According to experts at the HALO Trust, these rockets accounted for 25 percent of the rockets fired between June and August 1989; they accounted for one in 50 during the same months in 1990. De-mining experts have described the M42 and M46 as the "worst thing used here now." Interview in Kabul, July 27, 1990.
81 The Land Mines Protocol defines a "mine" as "any munition placed under, on or near the ground or other surface area and designed to be detonated or exploded by the presence, proximity or contact of a person or vehicle." A "remotely-delivered mine" is "any mine so defined delivered by artillery, rocket, mortar or similar means or dropped from an aircraft." Land Mines Protocol, Article 2(1).
83 Areas that may contain military objectives, but also contain largely civilian populations do not constitute a legitimate objective because the rule of proportionality prohibits attacks in which the civilian casualties outweigh the military importance of the objective.
84 The fact that the rockets landed in opposition-held territory may indicate the degree to which the rockets are inaccurate. There was fighting between government forces and mujahidin around Kabul at the time, but it is not possible to state with certainty whether the rockets were aimed at any military targets.
96 Previously, high civilian casualties were the result of government bombardments of mujahidin strongholds. Since early 1989, the governor reportedly ordered a halt to such operations and has not responded to the mujahidin attacks. Interview with a doctor from Qandahar, in Quetta, Pakistan, July 7, 1990.
107 Interview with Afghan journalist in Peshawar, July 10, 1990. Another Afghan exile told Asia Watch that payments may run as high as Rs. 500,000 (U.S. $25,000). Interview with Afghan exile in Washington, D.C, January 21, 1991.
115 According to Afghan sources in Quetta, the mujahidin forces included those under the command of Mullah Naqib of Jamiat-e Islami, who took some 60 soldiers into custody, and those under the command of Mullah Farooq, also of Jamiat-e Islami, who took 30 soldiers into custody. The soldiers were reportedly executed because "no one could guarantee that they were good Muslims." Interview with Afghan exile in Washington, D.C., January 21, 1991.
116 The soldiers reportedly belonged to the Noorzai militia, which has a particularly brutal reputation. Afghan sources have suggested that this was the reason for the killing. Interview with Afghan exile in Washington D.C., January 21, 1991.
122 See Richard MacKenzie, "A Murderous Jolt for U.S. Policy," Insight Magazine, (Washington DC: Washington Times) August 1989, pp. 39-40; Steve Coll, "Afghan Rebel Faction Decries Attack by Rivals," Washington Post, July 20, 1989; "Afghan Rebel Killings," Washington Post, August 6, 1989.
131 There is no accurate estimate of the number of active mines in Afghanistan. Estimates range as high as three million; but the number is at least in the tens of thousands, making Afghanistan potentially the largest minefield in the world.
134 The Mi-8 helicopters used in these operations generally disseminated the mines in units carrying 144 mines in foil packets of 12 mines each which scattered the mines over a wide area. The Mi-8 helicopters were usually fitted with two such units. The PFM-1 and PFM-1s were also disseminated by fixed-wing aircraft and by artillery fire in plastic packets containing some 20 mineswhich were launched by a 240 mm. mortar, scattering the mines randomly up to a distance of 200 meters on impact. Letter from Rae McGrath to Asia Watch, January 23, 1991.
138 Some experts believe that the PFM-1s may self-destruct in some cases but only because of a design flaw that may cause one spring to expand faster than the other when exposed to heat. Interview at the HALO Trust, Kabul, July 27, 1990.
139 The PMD and PMN are pressure-detonated land mines of a basic box-like design; the POMZ is attached to a trip wire. Other mines that have been used in large numbers are the OZM and OZM-3 "bounding" mines which are lethal because when they explode they take off the upper part of the body. They are considered "anti-morale" weapons. Interview with Rae McGrath in Peshawar, July 5, 1990.
141 Interview with the Ambassador of Afghanistan to the U.N., Noor Ahmad Noor, and Minister of Foreign Affairs Abdul Wakil, in New York, October 5, 1990. On December 11, 1990, President Najibullah inaugurated a "National Commission for Clearing Mines and Unexploded Ordnance from the Lands of the Republic of Afghanistan" under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Fazl Haq Khaliqyar. Asia Watch has no information on the activities of the commission to date.
145 The maps that have been tested so far have reportedly proved generally reliable; however, they are not available for most of the country's minefields. Interview at HALO Trust, Kabul, July 27, 1990.