S. Mudassir Ali Shah
KABUL (PAN): The outgoing year was the deadliest year for Afghan children since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, a human rights watchdog said here on Wednesday.
More than 1,050 children under 18 years of age were killed in suicide attacks, air strikes, improvised explosive device blasts and crossfire between warring parties in 2009, the organisation said.
An Afghan boy who was injured in a suicide bomb blast lies in hospital in Farah province November 20, 2009. (Photo: REUTERS)
In a detailed report released today, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM) alleged children were recruited for military purposes, harassed, sexually exploited and detained illegally.
They were deliberately deprived of access to basic rights such as education and health by Taliban insurgents, pro-government forces and other armed groups, the group added.
ARM Director Ajmal Samadi said: "At least three children were killed in war-related incidents everyday in 2009 and many others suffered in diverse but mostly unreported ways." Around 2,080 incidents of grave violations of child rights were reported during the year.
About 64 percent of the child victims were killed in 2009 as a result of violent incidents perpetrated by the Taliban militants, who recruited dozens of underage boys as foot soldiers and suicide attackers.
Besides murdering several children on charges of espionage or working for the government and its foreign supporters, the insurgents deprived hundreds of thousands of boys and girls of education.
Widespread attacks on aid workers, humanitarian convoys and facilities denied thousands of children access to life-saving services such as food aid and immunisation against deadly diseases.
Afghan and foreign forces did little to ensure child protection in counterinsurgency operations, the ARM complained, saying the alleged killing of eight students in Narang district of Kunar province on December 26 by US Special Forces and their Afghan companions appeared to be an appalling act of crime against civilians.
"NATOs accusation that the teenagers were involved in bomb-making activities does not justify their group-killing," Samadi said, adding the claim that foreign forces came under fire contradicted government findings, which the victims were not combatants.
According to the report, the recruitment and use of children by police and private security companies continued throughout 2009 with little government intervention to curb the unlawful practice.
Several cases of sexual violence against children were reported with the alleged involvement of police officers, forces from registered private security firms and other militia actors but no case reached formal adjudication due to rampant corruption in government institutions and lack of support for victims.
"Whilst children were increasingly affected by war and crimes in Afghanistan, the government failed to introduce appropriate legal and practical mechanisms to mitigate their sufferings, protect them against the harm of war and bring alleged criminals to justice," said Samadi.
ARM urged warring parties to pay attention to the plight of children and publicly recommit to their protection, safety and well-being. It went on to ask the government to establish an authorised body to work on child protection issues and to constantly liaise with warring parties on child rights.
The group called for the government to set up a special fund for financial, health and social support services for war-affected children. It urged the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to sensitise the insurgents about the rights and protection of children in situations of war.