Navi Pillay, the UN's new high commissioner for human rights
, has expressed serious concern about new statistics showing a dramatic rise in deaths among Afghan civilians so far this year, compared to the same period last year.
Exactly 800 killings are attributed to the Taliban and other insurgent forces. That's almost double the 462 deaths for which they were held responsible in the same period in 2007.
“There is substantial evidence indicating that the Taliban are carrying out a systematic campaign of intimidation and violence aimed at Afghan civilians they believe to be supportive of the government, the international community, and military forces,” Pillay said.
Pro-government forces are held responsible for 577 civilian deaths so far this year during military operations, up from 477 during the same period last year.
“There is an urgent need for better coordination between Afghan and international military forces to enhance the protection of civilians and the safety and welfare of war-affected communities,” Pillay said. She also called for greater transparency in accountability procedures for international forces involved in incidents that cause civilian casualties.
Responsibility for a further 68 casualties is not clear.
A record 330 civilians were killed in August alone, including up to 92 during an operation involving Afghan and international military forces in western Shindand, as well as the killing of four NGO workers by the Taliban in Logar Province.
“This is the highest number of civilian deaths to occur in a single month since the end of major hostilities and the ousting of the Taliban regime at the end of 2001,” Pillay noted.