Report Summary: Civilian Casualties in 2020
Report Summary: Civilian Casualties in 2020
Findings by Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) indicate that in the past 11 years, from January 2009 to December 2020, a total of 93,492 civilians, including women and children have been killed or injured. Among these civilian casualties, 31,425 were killed, and 62,067 injured.
Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan in 2020
According to findings by AIHRC, a total of 8,500 civilians have been killed or injured throughout 2020; among whom 2,958 were killed, and 5,542 injured. These figures show a 21 percent decrease in the number of civilian casualties. The total number of civilian casualties in 2019 was 10,772; 2,817 killed and 7955 injured.
The data recorded by AIHRC indicate that out of the total 8,500 civilian casualties 5,539 are men, 847 women, and 2019 children. The gender of 95 of these victims could not be identified.
The civilian casualties report by AIHRC shows that in every 24 hours in 2020, on average eight civilians were killed, and 15 injured.
Number of Women Civilian Casualties:
Comparing the years 2019 and 2020, there has been a 13 percent reduction in women civilian casualties in 2020.
Our data show that the total number of civilian casualties among women in 2020 in Afghanistan is 847, out of which 330 were killed, and 517 are injured. In 2019, the total number of women civilian casualties was 974, including 282 killed, and 692 injured.
Number of Children Civilian Casualties:
The children civilian casualties caused by conflict decreased by 25 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. There has been a total of 2,019 child civilian casualties in 2020 including 565 children killed, and 1,454 children injured. In 2019, the total number of child civilian casualties was 2,696, including 445 killed and 2,251 injured.
Perpetrators of Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan in 2020
The Taliban: According to findings by AIHRC, the civilian casualties caused by Taliban attacks decreased by 40 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. The main reason for this reduction could be not conducting complex and suicide attacks in the major cities of the country. A total of 4,567 civilians have been killed or injured in Afghanistan in 2020 due to Taliban attacks; while during the same period in 2019, the total number of civilian casualties caused by Taliban attacks was 7,727
ISIS: The data recorded by AIHRC show that the number of civilian casualties due to ISIS attacks decreased by 21 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. The total number of civilians killed or injured by ISIS attacks in Afghanistan in 2020 is 403; while the total number of civilians killed or injured by ISIS in Afghanistan in 2019 was 515.
Pro-government forces and its international allies: There has been 16 percent reduction in number of civilian casualties caused by pro-government and its international ally forces. The government and its ally forces were the cause of 1,490 civilian casualties in 2019; while they have caused 1,249 civilian casualties in 2020.
Unknown perpetrators: The number of civilian casualties caused by unknown perpetrators has more than doubled in 2020. This is really alarming
According to findings by AIHRC, out of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2020, the Taliban are responsible for 53 percent, the pro-government and its international ally forces are responsible for 15 percent, and ISIS is responsible for five percent. The perpetrator for 25 percent of civilian casualties in the country is not known, and 2 percent of civilian casualties was caused by Pakistani rocketfires in Kunar, Khost, Paktika, and Kandahar.
The total number of civilians killed or injured due to Taliban attacks in 2020 is 4,567 (1,523 killed, and 3,044 injured).
The pro-government forces and their international allies have caused a total of 1,249 civilian casualties in 2020 which includes 386 killed and 863 injured.
The ISIS attacks have caused 403 civilian casualties in the country in 2020 which includes 160 killed and 243 injured.
No groups or individuals have taken responsibility for 2,107 civilian casualties (857 killed, and 1,250 injured) perpetrated in Afghanistan in 2020. Another 174 civilians have been harmed due to Pakistani rocket fires in Afghanistan which includes 31 killed and 143 injured.
Distinction of civilian casualties in 2020 by type of incidents
The methods used by conflicting parties that have caused the highest number of civilian casualties are as follows in respective order: IEDs and roadside mines, targeted killing, rocket fires, complex suicide attacks, ground battles, and airstrikes.
Use of IEDs, magnetic and pressure bombs:
The IEDs, magnetic and car bombs are the common war tactics of anti-government forces that often cause civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
According to findings by AIHRC, the use of IEDs and mine blasts have caused the highest number of civilian casualties in 2020 leaving 923 killed and 1,649 injured (totally 2,572). The aforementioned figure accounts for 30 percent of all civilian casualties in the country in 2020. However, it shows 17 percent reduction compared to 2019. In total, there were 3,316 civilian casualties caused by IEDs and mine blasts in 2019.
The high rate of civilian casualties caused by IED or roadside mine blasts in the country are alarming. The perpetrator for most of these cases are not identified yet. This tactic has been often used against members of security and defense forces, human rights defenders, civil society activists, civil servants, religious scholars, media workers, and local elders.
AIHRC findings indicate that civil servants, journalists, civil society activists, religious scholars, influential figures, members of National Assembly, and human rights defender have been the most common target for these targeted attacks. In 2020, targeted attacks caused 2,250 civilian casualties which includes 1,078 killed, and 1,172 injured. This figure accounts for 26 percent of all civilian casualties in 2020.
Targeted attacks in 2020 tripled, with a 169 percent increase, in comparison with 2019. In the year 2019, 834 civilians were killed or injured due to targeted attacks. In 2020, the casualties of this war tactic have risen to 2,250 which includes 1,078 killed and 1,172 injured.
There are many women and children among the victims of targeted attacks: 65 women and 74 children were killed in targeted attacks, with 95 women and 290 children injured.
Rocket fires caused 1,312 civilian casualties in 2020. This includes 362 killed, and 950 injured.
AIHRC findings indicate that in 2020 there was a 28 percent decrease in civilian casualties caused by rocket fires compared to 2019. Civilian casualties caused by rocket fires in 2020 account for 15 percent of all civilian casualties in 2020. Women and children are also among the victims of rocket fires.
The data by AIHRC indicate that a total of 1,312 civilians were killed or injured due to rocket fires which includes 362 killed, and 950 injured. While in 2019, 1,832 civilians were killed or injured by rocket fires.
There have many women and children among the casualties of rocket fires in 2020: 75 women and 149 children killed; 146 women and 350 children injured.
Despite the 23 percent drop in civilian casualties caused by suicide attacks in 2020 compared to 2019, the number of its victims is still alarming. The total number of civilian casualties caused by suicide attacks in 2020 is 1,165 which includes 244 killed, and 921 injured.
Civilian casualties caused by Taliban suicide attacks have decreased by 44 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. Suicide attacks by Taliban in 2019 had caused 1,195 civilian casualties which included 301 killed, and 894 injured. The number of civilian casualties caused by Taliban suicide attacks in 2020 is 528 which includes 65 killed and 436 injured.
The civilian casualties caused by ISIS suicide attacks increased by 33 percent in 2020 compared to 2019. The total number of civilian casualties caused by ISIS suicide attacks in 2019 was 194; while this number has risen to 258 casualties in 2020.
A large number of civilians have been killed or injured in 2020 due to ground battles between pro-government and anti-government forces. The total number of civilian casualties caused by ground battles in Afghansitan in 2020 is 791 which includes 161 killed, and 630 injured. The total number of civilian casualties caused by ground battles in 2019 was 2,478. Comparing 2020 with 2019, there has been 68 percent reduction in civilian casualties caused by ground battles in 2020.
Airstrikes in Afghanistan are commonly carried out by pro-government forces.
In total, there were 405 civilian casualties caused by airstrikes in 2020 which includes 186 killed and 219 injured. There were 750 civilian casualties caused by airstrikes in 2019. Comparing the number of casualties in both years, there has been 46 percent decrease in number of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes.
One of the war tactics used by Afghan military forces or their international allies that can result in civilian casualties is night raids. Night raids in 2020 caused five civilian casualties, four of whom were killed with one is injured. In 2019, there were 104 civilian casualties caused by night raids. A comparison of both years shows there has been 95 percent decrease in the number of civilian casualties caused by night raids in 2020.
Distinction of civilian casualties by geographic location
According findings by AIHRC, the South-Western zone of the country with 2,854 victims had the highest rate of civilian casualties in 2020 accounting for 33 percent of all civilian casualties in the country in 2020. Likewise, the following is the percentage and number of civilian casualties in 2020 by zone: Central Zone with 1,591 civilian casualties, 18 percent; the Eastern Zone with 1,298 civilian casualties, 15 percent; the Western Zone with 805 civilian casualties, nine percent; the Southern Zone with 684 civilian casualties, eight percent; the South-Eastern Zone with 678 civilian casualties, seven percent; and the Northern Zone with 590 civilian casualties accounts for six percent of all civilian casualties in the country .
Attack on public and private infrastructures:
According to International Humanitarian Law, any attack on public and private infrastructures is strongly prohibited and the warring parties must prevent any type of attack on these infrastructures.
Findings by AIHRC’s provincial and regional offices show that public and private infrastructures suffered the following damage in 2020:
- 151 schools across the country have been partly damaged or destroyed due to war;
- 9 schools have been set on fire by anti-government groups or unknown individuals;
- The government has turned 17 schools to military bases, as did the Taliban in 7 schools;
- 31 schools are under security threat because military bases have been established near these schools;
- As many as 106 clinics and hospitals suffered damages due to war, two clinics have been turned into military bases by the government, and 19 other clinics are under security threat;
- The Taliban has destroyed four electricity towers, five were destroyed by unknown perpetrators, two electricity towers and 40km of power transmission lines were destroyed due to war between Taliban and government forces. The total value of damages mentioned is estimated around 51,100,000 Afs.
- 257 bridges have been destroyed due to war;
- 111km of asphalted roads in different provinces have been destroyed by some of Taliban-affiliated armed groups intentionally or by roadside mine blasts;
- Anti-government groups have destroyed 7 signal towers belonging to private or government communication companies.
This is not an exhaustive list. Public or private infrastructure damage is far more than what AIHRC has been able to record.
Attack on journalists and media workers:
According to NAI-Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan, a total of 81 cases of violence against journalists have been recorded in 2020, including 11 journalists killed, and 17 others injured.
AIIHRC findings indicate that in the last few months of 2020, and as the peace negotiations began in Doha, targeted attacks against journalists, civil society activists and human rights defenders increased drastically.
Our findings show that only in the last 20 days of 2020, as many as 6 journalists and civil society activists were targeted and killed. AIHRC is deeply concerned about the escalation and continuation of these attacks.
Internally Displaced People:
Many civilian people across the country have been forced to move from their home to safer places due to war and armed conflict between government forces and anti-government groups as well as being threatened by irresponsible armed individuals. According to reports by Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation, 74,087 families have been displaced in the country due to war and insecurity. The following is the number of families displaced and where they belonged to: 10,329 families from the Central Zone; 30,715 families from Northern and North-Eastern Zone; 17,020 families from South-Western Zone; 9,317 families from Eastern Zone; 6,087 families from Western Zone; and 619 families from Southern Zone.
AIHRC calls on all warring parties – the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (GOIRA), international forces, the Taliban and other opposition groups – to heed the Commission’s recommendations and commit to their implementation.
- All parties to Afghanistan’s war are urged to foster the Intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha and work on a nationwide ceasefire while avoiding escalation of violence as a tool for gaining leverage in the talks;
- All parties involved in the war in Afghanistan are urged to abide by IHL – the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and its Additional Protocols – and to observe these norms at all times.
- All parties to the conflict are urged to refrain from fighting in civilian areas or anywhere that may harm civilians and to never use human beings as human shields. Similarly, parties must stop taking hostages, assassinations and targeted killings and summary trials of civilians. These are never justifiable, and no military faction is permitted to do so.
- GOIRA is called upon to identify, investigate, present investigation findings publicly, and prosecute all violators of IHL to put an end to the culture of impunity.
- The government of Afghanistan has recently started to work on policies and procedures to decrease civilian casualties and address cases of IHL violation. This is done in close consultation with relevant organizations. AIHRC welcomes this step by GOIRA – and urges the faster development and implementation of these policies and procedures.
- The GOIRA is called upon to support The Directorate of Combat against International Crimes Prosecution, and also asks that the GOIRA take immediate and acceptable measures in establishing a National Court for Addressing International Crimes.
- GOIRA is called upon to provide all its members of defense and security forces with more training on IHL principles and the consequences of violating IHL.
- The government and aid agencies are called upon to provide more assistance and protection to the individuals and families who have been displaced due to war.
- AIHRC welcomes the lower number of suicide attacks by the Taliban and calls on this group not to use war tactics that lead to civilian casualties, especially IEDs and roadside mines.
- We call on all warring parties in the country to clean the areas under their control of any unexploded mines or other explosive devices, and if they themselves do not have the capacity to do it, they should seek help from other organizations that work in this area, otherwise the ruling force in the area will be responsible for any horrible consequences.
- We call on GOIRA to prevent systematic killing of journalists, human rights defenders, civil society activists, and religious scholars of the country, and identify the persons, networks or groups behind these killings and prosecute the perpetrators.
Moreover, the Taliban cannot escape the responsibility of such incidents just by refusing the responsibility for them. It is suggested that both sides form a mutual committee that can investigate and document the incidents and then present their findings to the people
- The GOIRA is once again recommended to prepare the Government’s Action Plan to Support Victims of Terrorism in cooperation with national or international agencies to facilitate better supporting of victims.
- We call on the armed opponents of the government not to attack public infrastructure and to stop destroying electricity towers, setting schools and health centers on fire, disrupting the activity of communication networks, and destroying roads.
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