UN calls for probe into reports of Afghan civilian casualties in military operation

23 August 2008 – The top United Nations official in Afghanistan today called for a thorough investigation of reports that large numbers of civilians were killed during an international military operation in the far west of the country.

Kai Eide, the Secretary-General's Special Representative, issued a statement in which he said he had learned late last night that civilians may have been killed during the operations, carried out in Shindand district of Herat province.

He stressed the importance of a thorough investigation to establish the facts “before we jump to any conclusions. The United Nations has always made clear that civilian casualties are unacceptable – they undermine the trust and confidence of the Afghan people.”

Mr. Eide said he had instructed the Herat office of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to help provincial authorities to establish and verify the facts.

“Any civilian casualty is one civilian casualty too many,” he said. “And every effort that can be made must be made to ensure the safety and welfare of the civilian population where military operations are conducted.”

Meanwhile, the Special Representative today told a conference for southern Afghan governors that partnerships with provincial and district authorities are central to improving the effectiveness of aid across the south, which remains the most unstable and violence-wracked region of the country.

Speaking in Kandahar, Mr. Eide noted that it was in the southern districts and provinces “that the lack of effectiveness is most acutely felt. It is here that the lack of coordination has the greatest impact.”

He also urged the governors to combat corruption more vigorously, or risk undermining the confidence of Afghans in their State institutions and jeopardizing local security even further.


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