Sun, Dec 4, 2016 | updated 07:50 PM IST

NATO should strengthen civilian protection in Afghanistan: Human Rights Watch

Updated: Jul 06, 2016 16:55 IST

Brussels, July 6 (ANI): Human Rights Watch today said that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member countries should endorse concrete measures to improve the protection of civilians in the conflict in Afghanistan.

Human Rights Watch in a statement said the NATO should press the Afghan government to curtail abuses by its security forces, including the military's misuse of schools, attacks on healthcare facilities, and recruitment of children.

It said that NATO should appoint a high-level envoy on protection of civilians to provide expert analysis and advice.

"The Warsaw Summit is a crucial opportunity for NATO to commit to a more robust role in reducing Afghan civilian casualties," said Brad Adams, Asia director. "Despite NATO's reduced military presence and redefined support mission, the alliance is well situated to make good on its pledges to help protect civilians," the statement said.

The statement pointed out that though Taliban and other insurgent groups have been responsible for the vast majority of attacks that have caused significant civilian casualties, Afghan government forces are increasingly putting civilians in harm's way by occupying schools, raiding medical facilities, and recruiting children.

The Human Rights Watch asserted that such actions imperil the very development goals Afghanistan's donors and that they undermine the legitimacy of the Afghan government, and fuel support for the insurgents.

Human Rights Watch also claimed that it has documented the extensive military use of schools in contested areas of Baghlan province and pressed that the practice is on the rise in other conflict-affected areas of Afghanistan.

Throwing light on the situation, it said the schools become battlegrounds as the Taliban counter-attack government positions, leaving the buildings damaged.

It also said that Afghan security forces misuse the schools leaving devastating effect on the right to education, affecting tens of thousands of children at all educational levels, as well as teachers and administrators.

With the schools being used by the soldiers, it said that the families are unlikely to allow girls to attend school which will harm girls' access to education.

The statement said that the healthcare facilities have also been at risk and both insurgent forces and the Afghan security forces are responsible for these abuses.

The Human Right Watch also highlighted the recent UN report that both Taliban and government-backed forces use child soldiers, and cases of child recruitment more than doubled in 2015 compared with the previous year.

The statement said that in its 2016 report, it documented a significant increase in child recruitment in the northeast by the Taliban and that even the pro-government forces are also responsible for exploiting children.

Human Rights Watch Asia Director, Brad Adams said that NATO should deliver on its pledges and produce concrete measures to help protect Afghan civilians from armed conflict.

"NATO is uniquely placed to improve protection for Afghan civilians due to its high-level engagement with those in a position to stop abuses, including the very officials who are personally responsible for abuses," he added.

Meanwhile, the NATO Summit scheduled to be held in Warsaw, Poland on July 8 and 9 will discuss military and other support for the Afghan government. (ANI)