Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Saturday, June 23rd, 2018

Observing Humanitarian Law in Afghanistan’s Internal Conflicts


Observing Humanitarian Law in Afghanistan’s Internal Conflicts

The social life of human beings has begun with conflict and was beset by destructive war and skirmish throughout the history. War was an indispensable fact for mankind. On the other hand, war has been painful and followed by human rights violation, mainly in armed conflicts within the recent centuries as war took place in the deadliest possible way. War and violence, especially in internal armed conflicts in various countries including Afghanistan, resulted in great catastrophe, gory incident and violation of human dignity – these all happened in civil armed conflicts.
According to human rights international instruments and humanitarian law, it is an obligation on warring sides, be it national or international, to observe humanitarian law and are not supposed to violate it in any conditions. Therefore, the binding international principles are stressed in the international humanitarian law. Respecting this international instrument and the main reason behind underlining these principles are to protect the non-combatant individuals who sit on the fence. So, restricting the rule of war, forbidding acting upon humiliating violence and using certain weaponry in armed conflicts and reducing the pain and sufferings of mankind during conflicts are the essential objectives of humanitarian law. It is stressed in Geneva Conventions – comprises of four treaties – second additional protocol and rules of the international community that warring sides will have to observe the humanitarian law in international and internal armed conflicts. It was further stated that disregarding the international humanitarian law is not allowed and will be considered a flagrant violation of human rights and humanitarian law. So, many practices are forbidden such as violent treatment to one’s life, especially any kind of killing, mutilation, torture or physical torment, violating one’s dignity and humiliation, rape, forcing to prostitution, and any kind of actions against self-esteem, using human shield, abduction, terrorist acts, massacre and collective torture, looting public properties, destroying cities and places, issuing decree for non-combatants’ displacement,  sabotaging or looting public or private estates or of the opponent party, targeting civilians or their residence, etc. Moreover, warring sides have to distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Targeting local residence or civilians’ properties are prohibited. It is emphasized in international humanitarian law that locals must not be attacked and violent acts and threat with the intention of spreading fear and horror among civilians are prohibited.
The aforementioned rules based on human rights values and binding international humanitarian law were endorsed with the aim of protecting human rights values of mankind around human societies. A number of principles is stated are fundamental and must be observed by warring sides in international and internal armed conflicts. The mentioned principles are: the principles of human dignity, restriction in using banned arms and chemical weapons, distinction between soldiers and civilians, prohibition of inflicting extreme pain and suffering, protecting environment, etc. Hence, warring sides are responsible to consider the aforementioned rules and differentiate between civilians and soldiers and military targets from civil ones. They are not allowed to damage public properties and should notice that targeting civilians, mainly women and children, and transgressing the said principles in war will be war crime. Humanitarian law seeks to reduce violent practices and prevent from anti-human acts. Unluckily, the principles of international humanitarian law has been ignored in Afghanistan’s civil conflicts and its violation is widespread. Warring sides transgressed them in different parts of the country. For instance, killing and beheading innocent civilians, including women and children, targeting non-combatants, rape, using human as defensive shield, abduction, targeting religious and educational centers, destroying hospitals, sabotaging and seizing private and public properties, causing civilian displacement, threatening the media and menacing human rights defenders are the flagrant violation of humanitarian law in Afghanistan.  
Report released by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission also reflects the violation of humanitarian law in the country which mostly includes civilian casualties, mainly last year, which was considered the deadliest year as thousands of people were the victims of war. Suicide attacks, ground conflicts, death and terror, improvised explosive device (IED) and rocket firing led to heaviest civilian fatalities. Thus, it is imperative that warring sides and anti-government armed parties pay heed to their responsibilities, respect humanitarian law, and realize that the violators of these rules deserve to be prosecuted for justice. In brief, the anti-government armed parties should be attentive enough that killing civilians and damaging their properties are prohibited and they have to stop abducting, terrorizing and killing travelers, killing local influential figures, and conducting desert court.
Afghan government is seeking to investigate human rights violations in internal armed conflict and identify those who violate them and prosecute them for justice. Considering the aforementioned rules and principles, the Afghan government intends to protect the life, dignity and property of civilians and cooperate with the International Criminal Court in relation to dealing with international human rights violation and submit documents and evidence related to war crime to the court.

Abdul Hamid Arifi is the permanent writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at the outlookafghanistan@gmail.com

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