Amnesty slams US over civilian deaths in Afghanistan

KABUL – The families of thousands of civilians killed by American forces in Afghanistan have been left without justice or compensation, Amnesty International said on Monday, in a damning indictment of the US military as it withdraws.

Amnesty said in a report that it had gathered evidence of a deeply flawed US military justice system that cements a culture of impunity in dealing with Afghan civilian deaths and injuries caused by US-led NATO coalition operations since 2001. President Hamid Karzai has often castigated US forces for civilian casualties. NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) says it takes all allegations of civilian casualties seriously and investigates each alleged incident.

The report said Amnesty researchers interviewed 125 Afghans who had first-hand information on 16 separate attacks that resulted in civilian casualties, as well as collating data from 97 reported incidents since 2007. An Amnesty spokesman said its data that thousands of civilians had been killed by US forces was based on UN reports on civilian casualties, a Science magazine investigation in 2011 and other sources, but it gave no total death toll.

"After any incident in which civilians have been killed by US forces, (the US must) ensure wherever there is sufficient admissible evidence, suspects are prosecuted," said the Amnesty report entitled Left in the Dark. It detailed a US bombing in 2012 when women were collecting firewood in the mountains of Laghman province.

Seven women and girls were killed and seven more were injured. Ghulam Noor, who lost his 16-year-old daughter Bibi Halimi in the attack, brought the bodies to the district centre after hearing NATO forces claimed that only insurgents had been killed. "We had to show them that it was women," Noor told Amnesty. "I have no power to ask the international forces why they did this. I can't bring them to court."

Amnesty said villagers filed complaints with the provincial governor, but international forces are immune from Afghan legal processes and no one ever contacted family members to investigate the attack.

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Aaj Kal