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UN says civilians’ protection efforts must improve

AT Monitoring Desk-KABUL: The United Nations Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights Ivan Simonovic on Wednesday said that more efforts should be made to protect civilians in Afghanistan as militants are trying to intensify their subversive activates here.

Simonovic spent the past week in Kabul, Nangarhar and Kapisa provinces.

Speaking at the end of a seven-day visit to Afghanistan, Simonovic said: “Afghanistan finds itself in a paradoxical situation. On the one hand, there are new opportunities for peace talks that would have been unimaginable only a few months ago. On the other, the conflict looks set to intensify as insurgents test the strength of the security forces hoping to gain leverage in future negotiations.”

He added: “Sadly, as the violence of the past week has shown, it will be Afghan civilians who pay the price, and more needs to be done to protect them.”

The Assistant Secretary-General in his second official visit to the country, focused on increasingly difficult security situation following the withdrawal of foreign troops and the transfer of security tasks to the Afghan National Security Forces. “2014 was already a terrible year for the civilian population of Afghanistan. Figures for the first quarter of 2015 have confirmed that negative trend,” Simonovic said.

According to preliminary figures compiled by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 655 civilians have already been killed and 1,155 injured in the first quarter of 2015.

“On Thursday, I met a number of children detained for conflict-related crimes, including attempted suicide bombing. On Friday, I met with civilian victims and their doctors at the emergency hospital in Kabul. And then on Saturday I was in Jalalabad at the time of a ferocious suicide attack by anti-government elements on a crowded marketplace, killing at least 35 people,” the UN envoy said. “It is unacceptable that Afghans should face such violence on a daily basis. There can be no doubt that the use of tactics of this kind represent war crimes, and those responsible for organizing or perpetrating such attacks must be brought to justice.”

“I was greatly encouraged by President [Ashraf] Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah’s personal commitment to ending torture in Afghan detention facilities, and the steps being taken to prepare a national action plan on torture prevention,” Simonovic added. “These institutional reforms must be reinforced by strict accountability measures. Torturers must be prosecuted and punished, not transferred to other positions.”

During his visit, Simonovic participated in the launch of a new report by UNAMA and the UN Human Rights Office on the barriers to justice women still face.

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