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Abdul Jabar, who lost four family members, shows a list of villagers who were killed in a September 19, 2019 airstrike in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, October 1, 2019.  © 2019 AP Photo/Rahmat Gul

(New York) – Attacks by all parties to Afghanistan’s armed conflict in 2019 took a devastating toll on civilians, Human Rights Watch said today in its World Report 2020.

Deaths from Afghan government and United States’ operations exceeded those caused by the Taliban for the first time in the first half of 2019, largely due to a sharp increase in US airstrikes. The Taliban carried out indiscriminate attacks, particularly before the September presidential elections, that killed and injured hundreds of civilians.

“As fighting has dragged on, all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan have shown a blatant disregard for the laws of war and have caused appalling civilian harm,” said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “However peace talks play out in 2020, the lives of ordinary Afghans will depend on the warring parties making a commitment to protect civilians and uphold human rights.”

In the 652-page World Report 2020, its 30th edition, Human Rights Watch reviews human rights practices in nearly 100 countries. In his introductory essay, Executive Director Kenneth Roth says that the Chinese government, which depends on repression to stay in power, is carrying out the most intense attack on the global human rights system in decades. He finds that Beijing’s actions both encourage and gain support from autocratic populists around the globe, while Chinese authorities use their economic clout to deter criticism from other governments. It is urgent to resist this assault, which threatens decades of progress on human rights and our future.

Throughout 2019, Afghan women’s rights groups and other activists called for broad representation of Afghans in the talks with the Taliban, and for preserving human rights protections, including constitutional guarantees on women’s equality, in any settlement.

In December, the Appeals Chamber of the International Criminal Court held hearings on whether the pre-trial chamber erred in rejecting the prosecutor’s request to open an investigation into alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in the context of Afghanistan’s armed conflict. Nine Afghan and international rights organizations filed a joint amicus curiae brief in the case, underscoring the importance of the appeal.

Afghan special forces supported by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) carried out summary executions and enforced disappearances during so-called night raids. For instance, on August 12, a special forces unit known as “02,” which has CIA support, summarily executed 11 men, most members of one extended family, in a night raid in Zurmat district, Nangarhar.

The Taliban targeted civilians, including Abdul Samad Amiri, acting head of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission’s office in Ghor province, who was abducted on September 3 together with a government employee. On September 5, the bodies of both men were found in the Jalrez district of Maidan Wardak province, an area under Taliban control.

The Afghan government made progress in reducing torture in some detention facilities, but failed to hold security force members and prominent political figures accountable for abuses, including sexual assault. The Taliban also carried out summary executions, torture, and ill-treatment, including forced labor of prisoners.

Afghanistan’s attorney general indicted the president of the Afghan Football Federation (AFF), Keramuddin Karim, on multiple counts of rape, sexual assault, and harassment of female players dating back to 2017. FIFA, football’s global governing body, issued a lifetime ban on Karim. However, Karim, a former governor, was not arrested.

Allegations of widespread fraud marred the September 2019 presidential elections, and two months after the vote, no results had been announced.


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