Section 1. Respect for the Integrity of the Person, Including Freedom from:
There were credible reports the government or its agents committed arbitrary or unlawful killings. For example, in February UNAMA received a report of Afghan Local Police (ALP) members detaining, torturing, and executing a shepherd after an IED killed two ALP members.
NGOs, UNAMA, and media throughout the year charged progovernment forces with extrajudicial killings. Although the government investigated and prosecuted some cases of extrajudicial killing, an overall lack of accountability for security force abuses remained a problem.
There were numerous reports of politically motivated killings or injuries by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. According to UNAMA’s October 19 report, there were 8,397 conflict-related civilian casualties (2,562 deaths and 5,835 injured) between January 1 and September 30, representing a 1 percent decrease from the same period in 2015. The conflict continued to affect the most vulnerable, including women and children. In this same period, UNAMA documented 2,461 child casualties (639 deaths and 1,822 injured), an increase of 15 percent compared with 2015. UNAMA attributed 61 percent of all civilian casualties to nongovernmental elements and 23 percent to progovernment forces.
In July, Human Rights Watch and UNAMA reported that the Afghan army and Junbesh militia forces carried out an operation against the Taliban in Northern Faryab in June in which militia forces killed 13 civilians and wounded 32 others. Human Rights Watch interviewed villagers who said Junbesh fighters entered the villages and targeted those they believed sided with the Taliban.
There were reports of disappearances attributed to security forces, and insurgent groups were reportedly also responsible for disappearances and abductions (see section 1.g.).
On November 25, First Vice President General Abdul Rashid Dostum allegedly kidnapped Uzbek tribal elder and political rival Ahmad Ishchi. Before detaining Ishchi, Dostum let his bodyguards brutally beat him during a traditional “buzkashi” match in Jowzan Province. After being held for a number of days, Ishchi later publicized allegations that he was beaten and tortured by Dostum and his men during his detention. The Attorney General’s Office opened an investigation into the allegations.
On June 1, Taliban militants kidnapped 17 members of the Hazara Shiite minority community in Sar-e-Pul Province. Although all were subsequently freed, the Taliban continued to target and kidnap members of the Hazara ethnic community, executing Hazara hostages in certain instances. On September 1, Taliban members stopped a car in Dawlat Abad district of Ghor Province and kidnapped five Hazara university students. They killed one of the students and released the other four weeks later.
On August 7, two professors, working for the American University of Afghanistan were kidnapped; at year’s end they were still in captivity.
c. Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Although the constitution prohibits such practices, there were reports government officials, security forces, detention center authorities, and police committed abuses. NGOs reported security forces continued to use excessive force, including torturing and beating civilians.
According to local media reports, on July 30, Afghan National Police (ANP) personnel beat civilians in the Speen Ghebarga area of Qalat district in Zabul Province on the site of a recent explosion. The Ministry of Interior suspended three police personnel for the offense.
According to reports, some security officials and persons connected to the ANP raped children with impunity. NGOs reported incidents of sexual abuse and exploitation of children by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF); however, cultural taboos against reporting such crimes made it difficult to determine the extent of the problem. UNAMA reported it continued to receive allegations of sexual violence against children. In the first half of the year, UNAMA verified two incidents in which ALP used boys for sexual purposes in Baghlan and Kunduz. In one of the cases, an ALP commander in Kunduz kidnapped a 16-year-old boy from his home, brought him to his ALP checkpoint, and raped him for three days. In another case an ALP unit in Baghlan used at least one boy as a bodyguard and for sexual exploitation. There were reports of other boys being abused in the same unit.
There were reports of abuses of power by “arbakai” (untrained local militia) commanders and their followers. According to UNAMA many communities used the terms ALP and arbakai interchangeably, making it difficult to attribute reports of abuses to one group or the other. Nevertheless, credible accounts of killing, rape, assault, the forcible levy of informal taxes, and the traditional practice of “baad” (the transfer of a girl or woman to another family to settle a debt or grievance) were attributed to the ALP.
There were numerous reports of torture and other abuses by the Taliban and other insurgent groups. In March the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) reported the Taliban killed a woman in Jowzjan Province for committing adultery, after her husband and his family accused her of having an extramarital affair. Due to security concerns, neither the AIHCRC nor the government was able to investigate the case. In May a video appeared in social media of a woman in Jowzjan Province being tried in an informal Taliban court and later shot in the back of the head and killed.
Prison and Detention Center Conditions
The General Directorate of Prisons and Detention Centers (GDPDC), part of the Ministry of Interior, has responsibility for all civilian-run prisons (for both men and women) and civilian detention centers, including the large national prison complex at Pul-e Charkhi. The Ministry of Justice’s Juvenile Rehabilitation Directorate (JRD) is responsible for all juvenile rehabilitation centers. The ANP, which is under the Ministry of Interior, and the National Directorate for Security (NDS), under the ANDSF, also operated short-term detention facilities at the provincial and district levels, usually collocated with their headquarters facilities. The Ministry of Defense runs the Afghan National Detention Facilities at Parwan.
There were reports of private prisons run by members of the ANDSF and used for abuse of detainees.
Physical Conditions: Media and other sources continued to report common inadequacies in food and water and poor sanitation facilities in prisons. Some observers, however, found food and water to be sufficient throughout the GDPDC prisons. The GDPDC’s nationwide program to feed prisoners faced a severely limited budget. Many prisoners’ families provided food supplements and other necessary items.
Authorities generally lacked the facilities to separate pretrial and convicted inmates, or to separate juveniles according to the seriousness of the charges against them, with the exception of some juvenile facilities that separately housed juveniles imprisoned for national security reasons. According to the UN April 20 Report on Children in Armed Conflict, security forces detained hundreds of children on suspicion of being Taliban fighters, attempting suicide attacks, manufacturing or placing IEDs, or assisting insurgent armed groups. In the same report, the United Nations stated the Ministry of Justice reported 214 boys detained in juvenile rehabilitation centers on national security-related charges as of December 2015. There were reports the Parwan detention facility, operated by the Ministry of Defense, held 145 children for security-related offenses ay year’s end, a threefold increase compared with the previous year.
Overcrowding in prisons continued to be a serious, widespread problem; 28 of 34 provincial prisons for men were severely overcrowded, based on standards recommended by the International Committee of the Red Cross. As of July men’s prison facilities were at approximately 190 percent of capacity across the country. The Kapisa provincial prison for men was the most overcrowded, housing 340 inmates, more than 10 times the 29 prisoners for which it was designed. The country’s largest prison, Pul-e Charkhi, held 12,398 prisoners as of September, which was more than double the number it was designed to house.
In a March assessment on the country’s prison health services, UNAMA reported that few prisoners had access to medical check-ups or psychiatric services. The report also suggested the 26 provincial prisons did not have the female medical staff necessary to treat female prisoners. As a result, many children, up to the age of seven, accompanied their mothers to prison. In the same assessment, UNAMA reported that 336 children were accompanying female prisoners held in provincial prisons. While many women opted to keep their children with them in prison (ages seven and under), many others enrolled their children in Child Support Centers (CSCs). There were three CSCs: in Kabul, Mazar, and Herat.
In March, after authorities moved the Kabul Female Prison and Detention Center from a renovated building in the city to an allegedly subpar facility in the Pul-e Charkhi prison complex, a group of female prisoners set the facility on fire to protest their new living conditions.
Administration: The law provides prisoners with the right to leave prison for up to 20 days for family visits. Most prisons did not implement this provision, and the law is unclear in its application to different classes of prisoners.
Independent Monitoring: The AIHRC, UNAMA, and International Committee of the Red Cross continued to have access to detention facilities of the NDS and the Ministries of Interior, Justice, and Defense, and NATO Mission Resolute Support had access to NDS, ANP, and Ministry of Defense facilities. Security constraints and obstruction by authorities occasionally prevented visits to some places of detention. UNAMA and the AIHRC reported difficulty accessing NDS places of detention when unannounced. While Resolute Support did not experience the same level of difficulty, authorities denied unannounced access on several occasions at NDS and ANP facilities. The AIHRC reported NDS officials usually required the AIHRC to submit a formal letter requesting access at least one to two days in advance of a visit. NDS officials continued to prohibit AIHRC and UNAMA monitors from bringing cameras, mobile phones, recording devices, or computers into NDS facilities, thereby preventing AIHRC monitors from properly documenting physical evidence of abuse, such as bruises, scars, and other injuries. The NDS assigned a colonel to monitor human rights conditions in its facilities. In February and May, members of parliament visited GDPDC prison facilities to conduct monitoring and oversight of prison conditions, with a focus on conditions for women. The Justice Ministry’s JRD also produced an annual report in March on juvenile justice problems, drafted by the JRD’s Monitoring and Evaluation Office.
The law prohibits arbitrary arrest or detention, but both remained serious problems. Authorities detained many citizens without respecting essential procedural protections.
According to NGOs, law enforcement officers continued to detain citizens arbitrarily without clear legal authority or due process. Local law enforcement officials reportedly detained persons illegally on charges not provided for in the penal code. In 2012 the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) ordered a halt to the prosecution of women for “running away,” which is not a crime under the law. Reports indicated that prosecutors instead charged women who had left home with “attempted zina” (extramarital sexual relations) for being outside the home in the presence of nonrelated men, which is also not a crime under the law. In some cases authorities wrongfully imprisoned women because they deemed it unsafe for the women to return home or because women’s shelters were not available to provide protection in the provinces or districts at issue (see section 6, Women).
ROLE OF THE POLICE AND SECURITY APPARATUS
Three ministries have responsibility for providing security in the country, the Ministry of Interior, the Ministry of Defense, and the NDS. The ANP, under the Interior Ministry, has primary responsibility for internal order and also has responsibility for the ALP, a community-based self-defense force. The Afghan National Army (ANA), under the Ministry of Defense, is responsible for external security, but its primary activity is fighting the insurgency internally. The NDS functions as an intelligence agency and has responsibility for investigating criminal cases concerning national security. The investigative branch of the NDS operated a facility in Kabul, where it held national security prisoners awaiting trial until their cases were transferred to prosecutors. In some areas insurgents, rather than the ANP or ANA, maintained control.
There were reports of impunity and lack of accountability by security forces throughout the year. According to observers, ALP and ANP personnel were largely unaware of their responsibilities and defendants’ rights under the law. Accountability of NDS and ANP officials for torture and abuse was weak, not transparent, and rarely enforced. Independent judicial or external oversight of the NDS and ANP in the investigation and prosecution of crimes or misconduct, including torture and abuse, was limited. Police corruption remained a serious problem (see section 4).
NGOs and human rights activists reported widespread societal violence, especially against women (see section 6). In many cases police did not prevent or respond to violence and, in some cases, arrested women who reported crimes committed against them, such as rape.
ARREST PROCEDURES AND TREATMENT OF DETAINEES
UNAMA, the AIHRC, and other observers reported arbitrary and prolonged detention frequently occurred throughout the country. Authorities often did not inform detainees of the charges against them.
The law provides for access to legal counsel and the use of warrants, and it limits how long authorities may hold detainees without charge. Police have the right to detain a suspect for 72 hours to complete a preliminary investigation. If police decide to pursue a case, they transfer the file to the AGO. With court approval the investigating prosecutor may continue to detain a suspect while continuing the investigation, with the length of continued detention depending on the severity of the offense. The investigating prosecutor may detain a suspect for a maximum of 10 additional days for a petty crime, 27 days for a misdemeanor, and 75 days for a felony. The prosecutor must file an indictment or release the suspect within those deadlines, and no further extension of the investigatory period is permitted if the defendant is in detention. Prosecutors often ignored these limits.
Incommunicado imprisonment remained a problem, and prompt access to a lawyer was rare. Prisoners generally were allowed access to their families, but there were exceptions, and access was frequently delayed.
The criminal procedure code does provide for release on bail; however, in practice, the bond system was not always used. Authorities at times continued to detain defendants who had been acquitted by the courts on the grounds that defendants who were released pending the prosecution’s appeal often disappeared. In many cases authorities did not rearrest defendants they released pending the outcome of an appeal, even after the appellate court convicted them in absentia.
According to international monitors, prosecutors filed indictments in cases transferred to them by police, even where there was a reasonable belief no crime was actually committed.
According to the juvenile code, the arrest of a child “should be a matter of last resort and should last for the shortest possible period.” Reports indicated children in juvenile rehabilitation centers across the country lacked access to adequate food, health care, and education. Like adult detainees, detained children frequently were denied basic rights and many aspects of due process, including the presumption of innocence, the right to be informed of charges, access to defense lawyers, and protection from self-incrimination. The law provides for the creation of special juvenile police, prosecution offices, and courts. Due to limited resources, special juvenile courts functioned in only six provinces (Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Kandahar, Nangarhar, and Kunduz). Elsewhere, children’s cases fall under the ordinary courts. The law mandates that authorities handle children’s cases confidentially and, as with all criminal cases, may involve three stages: primary, appeals, and the final stage at the Supreme Court.
Some children in the criminal justice system were victims rather than perpetrators of crime. In some instances authorities chose to punish victims because they brought shame on the family by reporting an abuse. In the absence of sufficient shelters for boys, authorities detained abused boys and placed them in juvenile rehabilitation centers because they could not be returned to their families and shelter elsewhere was unavailable. There were also allegations that authorities allegedly treated children related to a perpetrator as proxies and imprisoned them.
Police and legal officials often charged women with intent to commit zina to justify their arrest and incarceration for social offenses, such as running away from home, rejecting a spouse chosen by her family, fleeing domestic violence or rape, or eloping. Article 130 of the constitution provides that in cases not explicitly covered by the provisions of the constitution or other laws, courts may, in accordance with Hanafi jurisprudence (a school of sharia, or Islamic law) and within the limits set by the constitution, rule in a manner that best attains justice in the case. Although observers stated this provision was widely understood to apply only to civil cases, many judges and prosecutors applied Article 130 to criminal matters. Observers reported officials used this article to charge women and men with “immorality” or “running away from home,” neither of which is a crime. Police often detained women for zina at the request of family members.
Authorities imprisoned some women for reporting crimes perpetrated against them and detained some as proxies for a husband or male relative convicted of a crime on the assumption the suspect would turn himself in to free the family member.
Authorities placed some women in protective custody to prevent violence by family members. They also employed protective custody (including placement in a detention center) for women who had experienced domestic violence, if no shelters were available to protect them from further abuse. The presidential decree on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (EVAW)–commonly referred to as the EVAW law–obliges police to arrest persons who abuse women. Implementation and awareness of the EVAW law was limited, however.
Arbitrary Arrest: Arbitrary arrest and detention remained a problem in most provinces. Observers reported some prosecutors and police detained individuals without charge for actions that were not crimes under the law, in part because the judicial system was inadequate to process detainees in a timely fashion. UNAMA reported police detained individuals for moral crimes, breach of contract, family disputes, and to extract confessions. Observers continued to report those detained for moral crimes were almost exclusively women.
Pretrial Detention: The law provides a defendant the right to object to his or her pretrial detention and receive a court hearing on the matter. Nevertheless, lengthy pretrial detention remained a problem.
Many detainees did not benefit from any or all of the provisions of the criminal procedure code, largely due to a lack of resources, limited numbers of defense attorneys, unskilled legal practitioners, and corruption. The law provides that, if the investigation cannot be completed or an indictment is not filed, within the code’s 10-, 27-, or 75-day deadlines, the defendant must be released. Many detainees, however, were held beyond those periods, despite the lack of an indictment.
Amnesty: The Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program, which existed between 2010 and 2016, was a mechanism for bringing combatants off the battlefield. The program document stated the program “is not a framework for pardoning all crimes and providing blanket amnesty,” and reintegration candidates were informed prior to enrollment that entry into the program did not amount to blanket immunity from prosecution.
In September the government concluded a peace accord with the Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin group. As part of the agreement, the government pledged to release certain prisoners in its custody. At year’s end the government was vetting prisoners for possible release.
As of September 2015, prison industries offered more jobs and vocational training to enhance employment opportunities after release. In December 2015 President Ghani visited Badam Bagh prison in Kabul to inquire about the situation of female inmates. Ghani said he personally oversaw the drafting of pardon and parole decrees and ordered the creation of an impartial delegation composed of female representatives from civil society to look into female prisoners’ cases. The delegation, comprising nine women, was reviewing female inmate cases to ensure those eligible were released. By year’s end, 235 women had been released, and 307 had their sentences reduced.
The law provides for an independent judiciary, but the judiciary continued to be underfunded, understaffed, inadequately trained, largely ineffective, and subject to threats, bias, political influence, and pervasive corruption.
Bribery, corruption, and pressure from public officials, tribal leaders, families of accused persons, and individuals associated with the insurgency continued to impair judicial impartiality. Most courts administered justice unevenly, employing a mixture of codified law, sharia, and local custom. Traditional justice mechanisms remained the main recourse for many, especially in rural areas. There was varying adherence to codified law, with courts often disregarding applicable statutory law in favor of sharia or local custom. Corruption was common within the judiciary, and often criminals paid bribes to obtain their release or a reduction in sentence (see section 4).
The formal justice system was relatively strong in urban centers, where the central government was strongest, and weaker in rural areas, where approximately 76 percent of the population lived. Courts and police forces continued to operate at less than full strength nationwide. The judicial system continued to lack the capacity to absorb and implement the large volume of new and amended legislation. A lack of qualified judicial personnel hindered the courts. Some municipal and provincial authorities, including judges, had minimal training and often based their judgments on their personal understanding of sharia without appropriate reference to statutory law, tribal codes of honor, or local custom. The number of judges who were graduates of law school, many from universities with sharia faculties, continued to increase. Access to legal codes and statutes increased, but their limited availability continued to hinder some judges and prosecutors.
In March 2015 a mob killed Farkhunda Malikzada after a local religious cleric falsely accused her of burning a copy of the Quran. Following protests after Farkhunda’s death, the government promised swift and exemplary justice but showed little progress in holding the attackers accountable. A court prosecuted some of the attackers and sentenced some to the death penalty. In March 2016, however, the Supreme Court voted to reduce the sentences of those convicted. The reasoning was that the death penalty can be imposed only where the accused are found to be the “main perpetrators” of the death. The Supreme Court held it could not find sufficient evidence that any of the four men were the direct cause of Farkhunda’s death.
Following the Supreme Court decision to uphold the reduced sentences, President Ghani established an investigatory committee to look into Farkhunda’s case. More than 40 civil society and women’s organizations formed an alliance to demand that the Supreme Court decision be investigated and revisited. As an example, the Women’s Political Participation Committee, a civil society organization, held a press conference on March 19 to call on the government to reassess the Supreme Court’s decision and ensure more transparency in the process.
There was a widespread shortage of judges, primarily in insecure areas. UNAMA reported Taliban attacks against judicial authorities and prosecutors significantly increased following the government’s execution on May 8 of six Taliban prisoners. Following the executions, the Taliban carried out major attacks against judicial officials. On May 25, a Taliban suicide bomber attacked a government shuttle bus transporting Maidan Wardak provincial court staff members, killing 12 civilians, including two judges, and injuring nine others. On June 1, the Taliban attacked Ghazni’s provincial appellate court and killed four civilians, including two court staff, and injured 15 others, including the head of the court.
In major cities, courts continued to decide criminal cases as mandated by law. Civil cases continued to be frequently resolved using the informal system or, in some cases, through negotiations between the parties facilitated by judicial personnel or private lawyers. Because the formal legal system often was not present in rural areas, local elders and shuras (consultative gatherings, usually of men selected by the community) were the primary means of settling both criminal matters and civil disputes. They also imposed punishments without regard to the formal legal system.
In some areas the Taliban enforced a parallel judicial system based on a strict interpretation of sharia. Punishments could include execution or mutilation. For example, in August in Kapisa Province, the Taliban accused a 20-year-old student of spying, kidnapped him, and killed him a week later. UNAMA reported death sentences, lashings, and beatings resulted in 29 civilian casualties (24 deaths and five injuries) in the first half of the year, a 28 percent increase over the same period in the previous year.
The constitution provides the right to a fair and public trial, but the judiciary rarely enforced this provision. The administration and implementation of justice varied in different areas of the country. The government formally uses an inquisitorial legal system. By law all citizens are entitled to a presumption of innocence, and those accused have the right to be present at trial and to appeal, although these rights were not always respected. In some provinces public trials were held, but this was not the norm. Three-judge panels decide criminal trials, and there is no right to a jury trial under the constitution. Prosecutors rarely informed defendants promptly and in detail of the charges brought against them. An indigent defendant has the right to consult with an advocate or counsel at public expense when resources allow. This right was applied inconsistently, in large part due to a severe shortage of defense lawyers. Citizens often were unaware of their constitutional rights. Defendants and attorneys were entitled to examine physical evidence and documents related to a case before trial, although observers noted court documents often were not available for review before cases went to trial, despite defense lawyers’ requests.
Criminal defense attorneys reported justice system officials were slowly demonstrating increased respect and tolerance for the role of defense lawyers in criminal trials, but at times defendants’ attorneys experienced abuse and threats from prosecutors and other law enforcement officials.
The criminal procedure code establishes time limits for the completion of each stage of a criminal case, from investigation through final appeal, when an accused is in custody. The code also allows for the accused persons to be released temporarily on bail, but this was rarely used. An addendum to the code provides for extended custodial limits in cases involving crimes committed against the internal and external security of the country. Courts at the Justice Center in Parwan elected to utilize the extended time periods. If the deadlines are not met, the law requires the accused be released from custody. In many cases courts did not meet these deadlines, but detainees nevertheless remained in custody.
In cases where no clearly defined legal statute applied, or where judges, prosecutors, or elders were unaware of the statutory law, judges and informal shuras enforced customary law. This practice often resulted in outcomes that discriminated against women.
POLITICAL PRISONERS AND DETAINEES
There were no reports the government held political prisoners or detainees.
CIVIL JUDICIAL PROCEDURES AND REMEDIES
Citizens had limited access to justice for constitutional and human rights violations. The state judiciary did not play a significant or effective role in adjudicating civil matters due to corruption and lack of capacity, although the judiciary frequently adjudicated family law matters.
The law prohibits arbitrary interference in matters of privacy, but authorities did not always respect its provisions. The criminal procedure code contains additional safeguards for the privacy of the home, prohibiting night arrests and strengthening requirements for body searches. The government did not always respect these prohibitions.
Government officials continued to enter homes and businesses of civilians forcibly and without legal authorization.
There were reports that government officials monitored private communications, including telephone calls and other digital communications, without legal authority or judicial warrant.
Authorities imprisoned relatives, male and female, of criminal suspects and escaped convicts in order to induce the persons being sought to surrender (see section 1.d.).
Insurgents continued to intimidate cell phone operators to shut down operations. Reports of destruction of mobile telephone towers, bribing of guards, and disconnecting of networks at night were particularly common in the southwestern, southern, and eastern provinces.
Continuing internal conflict resulted in civilian deaths, abductions, prisoner abuse, property damage, displacement of residents, and other abuses. The security situation remained a problem due to insurgent attacks. Civilians, particularly women and children, continued to bear the brunt of intensified armed conflict, according to UNAMA. Overall civilian casualties continued at approximately the same rates as in 2015, but with a 1 percent decrease in deaths. Terrorist groups caused the vast majority of civilian deaths.
Killings: For the first nine months of the year, UNAMA documented 8,397 civilian casualties (2,562 deaths and 5,835 injured). UNAMA attributed 23 percent of civilian casualties to progovernment forces, while it attributed 61 percent of all civilian casualties to antigovernment elements.
According to UNAMA, ground engagements and crossfire incidents involving the parties to the conflict remained the largest cause of civilian casualties (dead and injured), followed by suicide and complex attacks and IEDs. UNAMA reported that the number of casualties among children in the first nine months of the year increased by 15 percent over the same period in 2015. Antigovernment elements continued to use suicide and complex attacks to target civilians and government officials, a practice that became the most harmful tactic by antigovernment forces. In the first nine months of the year, suicide and complex attacks represented 20 percent of all civilian casualties, while IEDs caused 18 percent of casualties.
The increase in complex and suicide attacks was evidenced by the attack in Kabul in July, when a twin bombing occurred near Deh Mazang Square in Kabul during a peaceful demonstration. More than 80 demonstrators, predominantly Shiite Hazara, were killed by the blasts, and more than 230 were injured.
Antigovernment elements continued to attack religious leaders whom they concluded spoke against the insurgency or the Taliban. Antigovernment elements also continued to target government officials. The majority of Taliban attacks targeted security forces, in particular ANP and ALP forces, notably in volatile areas. Antigovernment elements continued to use civilian residences to attack government forces, such as those that occurred in February in Dand E Ghori, according to local media.
The Taliban and antigovernment elements continued to engage in indiscriminate use of force, attacking and killing villagers, foreigners, and NGO workers in armed attacks and with vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) and suicide bombs. Through the first six months of the year, UNAMA documented 2,509 civilian casualties (531 civilian deaths and 1,528 injuries) because of combined IED tactics, or 67 percent of all civilian casualties caused by antigovernment forces.
Abductions: UNAMA documented 195 incidents of conflict-related abductions in the first six months of the year that resulted in 85 civilian casualties (46 deaths and 39 injured) and the abduction of 1,141 persons. This showed a 67 percent increase in the number of civilians abducted, albeit with a 2 percent decrease in the overall number of abductions, compared with the same period in 2015. On May 30, the Taliban stopped three civilian buses carrying passengers from Kabul to Takhar and Badakhshan Provinces in Ali Abad district of Kunduz Province. Taliban abducted 185 passengers, including 30 women and children. The abductors identified 28 men as Afghan Security Personnel and released 157 passengers. They executed 12 of the kidnapped passengers and released eight others. The last eight were released a month and a half later, after local elders mediated their release.
Physical Abuse, Punishment, and Torture: According to some reports, on June 26, security forces launched a combined operation with progovernment armed groups against the Taliban in Faryab Province. While the Taliban fled the area, progovernment armed groups led by six commanders conducted operations in four villages that resulted in 17 casualties (five deaths and 12 injured). The forces loyal to these six commanders shot and killed three civilian men in Sheshpar village and severely beat 14 other men in the same village on accusation of supporting the Taliban; two of the 14 beaten men died of their wounds. There were reports that these forces looted and burned civilian houses in Shordarya area, and UNAMA was investigating the allegations. President Ghani ordered the arrest of individuals responsible for the abuse, and the NDS arrested one commander and seven men while the investigation continued.
Antigovernment elements continued to target civilians. The following are illustrative examples. In February, Taliban members killed four civilians at a wedding party in the Sar Hakwza district of Paktika Province, accusing them of cooperating with government officials. On March 5, the Taliban shot and killed a mosque custodian/imam in front of his mosque in Kandahar Province. The group claimed that the imam was working for the government’s intelligence service.
Land mines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war (ERW) continued to cause deaths and injuries, restrict areas available for farming, and impede the return of refugees. UNAMA reported the number of deaths and injuries from land mines, unexploded ordnance, and explosive remnants of war was 35 percent higher than in previous years. The Mine Action Program of Afghanistan reported that during the 12 months ending in March, there were 155 reported casualties from ERW, seven casualties due to land mines, and 1,051 casualties from pressure-plate improvised explosive devices (PPIEDs). In addition to these casualties from traditional antitank and antipersonnel mines and PPIEDs, there continued to be thousands of civilian casualties from other IEDs. According to the Mine Action Coordination Center, land mines, unexploded ordnance, and ERW imperiled 1,577 communities across 256 districts, covering approximately 230 square miles. The Ministry of Education and NGOs continued to conduct educational programs and mine awareness campaigns throughout the country.
Between January 1 and June 30, child casualties from ERW increased by 53 percent, accounting for 85 percent of all civilian casualties caused by ERW, compared with the same period in 2015. ERW caused 264 child casualties (83 deaths and 181 injured), making it the second leading cause of child casualties in the first half of the year. In the same period, UNAMA documented 136 incidents of ERW detonation resulting in 312 civilian casualties (95 deaths and 217 injured, a 49 percent increase compared with the first half of 2015. Mine-risk education, in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, was conducted in schools to raise awareness. According to the Mine Action Program Coordination Center of Afghanistan, there were 1,620 mine-contaminated communities, covering an area of approximately 210 square miles.
Child Soldiers: There were reports the ANDSF and progovernment militias, particularly the ANP and ALP, recruited and used children for military purposes. In an effort to prevent the recruitment of children, the government continued to work towards the expansion of Child Protection Units (CPUs) to all 34 provinces. As of November there were 17 active CPUs–12 of them established during the year. According to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), CPUs prevented 315 children from being recruited during the year.
The AIHRC reported 21 cases of child recruitment by the Ministry of Interior security forces. Under a government action plan, the ANP took steps that included training staff on age-assessment procedures, launching an awareness campaign on underage recruitment, investigating alleged cases of underage recruitment, and establishing centers in some provincial recruitment centers to document cases of attempted enlistment by children. Recruits undergo an identity check, including a requirement that at least two community elders vouch that a recruit is 18 years old and is eligible to join the ANDSF. The Ministries of Interior and Defense also issued directives meant to prevent the recruitment and sexual abuse of children by the ANDSF. Media reported in some cases ANDSF units used children as personal servants, support staff, or for sexual purposes.
UNAMA also documented the recruitment of children by the Taliban and other antigovernment elements, although figures were unreliable and difficult to obtain. In some cases the Taliban and other antigovernment elements used children as suicide bombers and human shields and in other cases to assist with their work, such as placing IEDs, particularly in southern provinces. Media, NGOs, and UN agencies reported the Taliban tricked children, promised them money, used false religious pretexts, or forced them to become suicide bombers. During the year the United Nations recorded 35 cases of child recruitment by armed opposition groups and 13 cases by the ANDSF.
In February the Taliban killed Wasil Ahmad, an 11-year-old boy who had been praised for fighting in an ALP unit for 43 days in 2015 when Taliban forces laid siege to his hometown of Khas Uruzgan. Although the ALP claimed the boy was not recruited and volunteered to defend his family, he was armed and in uniform. The boy was killed six months after the siege; he was no longer engaged in combat.
Also see the Department of State’s annual Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Other Conflict-related Abuse: The security environment continued to have a negative effect on the ability of humanitarian organizations to operate freely in many parts of the country. Insurgents deliberately targeted government employees and aid workers.
Suspected Taliban members attacked NGO offices, vehicles, guesthouses, restaurants, and hotels frequented by NGO employees. Violence and instability hampered development, relief, and reconstruction efforts. NGOs reported insurgents, powerful local individuals, and militia leaders demanded bribes to allow groups to bring relief supplies into the country and distribute them. In April unidentified armed men abducted 15 members of a mine removal team from HALO Trust, a mine-clearing agency, in Herat Province. The men were released the next day during a military operation.
The Taliban continued to distribute threatening messages in attempts to curtail government and development activities. Insurgents used civilians, including children, as human shields, either by forcing them into the line of fire or by conducting operations in civilian settings.
In the south and east, the Taliban and other antigovernment elements frequently forced local residents to provide food and shelter for their fighters. The Taliban also continued to attack schools, radio stations, and government offices.
On September 5, Taliban forces carried out two large bombing operations in Kabul, targeting the Ministry of Defense and the humanitarian agency CARE International. At least 30 were killed and more than 90 injured at the ministry. The majority of casualties at the ministry attack were ANDSF, and an ANA general and two senior police officials were among the dead. The Taliban immediately claimed responsibility for the attack. At CARE International unidentified attackers detonated a VBIED at the agency’s headquarters. One civilian was killed, while one ANP person and seven civilians were injured.
On October 25, militants killed 24 civilians–including women and children–who had been captured the day before near the Ghor provincial capital of Firezkoh city (formerly Chaghcharan). The Taliban denied involvement, and the provincial governor’s spokesperson told one journalist that Islamic State in Khorasan Province carried out the attack. Other reports indicated the civilians were executed in response to the death of local Taliban commander Faroq on October 24 during an attack on an Afghan National Civil Order Police checkpoint.