The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its findings on Monday regarding the controversial airstrike in Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province of Afghanistan.
As of 7 May, the UN mission verified 107 casualties in the airstrike which includes 36 killed and 71 injured, of which according to UNAMA 81 were children, although the report notes that UNAMA received additional credible information indicating higher figures.
On 2 April 2018, at approximately 12:30 pm Afghan Air Force helicopters conducted aerial operations in Laghmani village, Dasht-e-Archi district of Kunduz province, releasing multiple rockets and firing heavy machineguns during an open-air ‘dashtar bandi’ religious ceremony next to a madrassa where hundreds of men and boys were gathered.
According to UNAMA, the special report titled, “Airstrikes in Dasht-e-Archi district, Kunduz Province, 2 April 2018,” has been prepared based upon more than 90 interviews with victims, witnesses, government officials and medical personnel; three large community consultations in Kunduz city; and accounts received during a fact-finding mission to the site of the attack.
The report noted: “A key finding of this report is that the Government used rockets and heavy machinegun fire on a religious gathering, resulting in high numbers of child casualties, raising questions as to the Government’s respect of the rules of precaution and proportionality under the international humanitarian law. Additionally, the timing and place of the attack, which occurred during a religious ceremony attended by hundreds of people, cannot be reconciled with the Government’s obligations under international humanitarian law to take all feasible measures to spare civilians and civilian objects from the harm of conflict, or, at minimum, to minimize incidental loss of civilian life and damage to civilian property. While UNAMA is not in a position to determine whether the Government’s actions amounted to violations of international humanitarian law, including the rules of precaution and proportionality and the explicit prohibition against launching an indiscriminate attack affecting the civilian population, these factors raise serious concern and require further investigation by competent authorities.”
The Government earlier defended the airstrikes saying that it targeted senior Taliban leaders present in the area, including members of the Quetta Shura, as well as members of a Taliban ‘Red Unit’, who had allegedly gathered to launch an operation against Kunduz city.
On 4 April, the Afghanistan Government established a commission comprised of representatives from the Office of the President, Afghan National Army, Attorney General’s Office, and Ministry of Haj and Religious Affairs who travelled to Kunduz city to investigate the incident.
However, the commission has not yet published its report.
In the report, UNAMA made several recommendations to the government for fixing accountability through prompt, impartial and transparent investigation of the attack on civilians; ensuring appropriate redress for the victims, including compensation; conducting a thorough, transparent, objective and credible review of policies concerning military operations to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law; and taking measures to correct any actual or perceived bias against civilians living in Taliban controlled areas, with the aim of restoring trust between the Government and communities.
To the International Forces Technical support, the UN mission recommended that they provide support to the Government of Afghanistan within its role to train, advise and assist in carrying out the recommended actions.
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