U.S. attacks on alleged Afghan drug sites with high civilian toll may not be legal: UN

0 Comment(s)Print E-mail Xinhua, October 10, 2019
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UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 9 (Xinhua) -- A special UN report has found U.S. air strikes on alleged illegal drug facilities in May in Afghanistan resulting in a high civilian casualty toll may not be lawful, a UN spokesman said on Wednesday.

Farhan Haq, deputy spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, said that following May 5 attacks on alleged drug production facilities, an investigation by the UN Human Rights Office and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) verified 39 casualties including 14 children and one woman.

"Moreover, the UN is working to verify credible reports of at least 37 additional civilian casualties, the majority of whom were women and children," Haq said. "The report concludes that drug facilities and associated workers may not be lawfully made the target of attack and should be protected."

"It is well documented that the Taliban financially benefits from the drug industry in Afghanistan," the report's summary said. "In this case the findings of UNAMA indicate, however, that the drug production facilities in Bakwa district were not controlled and operated exclusively by the Taliban, but rather they were owned and operated by criminal groups with connections to international drug trafficking networks."

It said the sites hit did not meet the definition of legitimate military objectives under international law.

"Based on the information gathered, UNAMA has assessed that the personnel working inside the drug production facilities were not performing combat functions," the report's summary said.

The UN mission found that while some of the civilians killed or injured in the airstrikes were working in the drug labs, others, including women and children, were not.

"While the report fully acknowledges that the illicit drug industry in Afghanistan causes extensive harm to the civilian population in the country and beyond, it concludes that the appropriate -- and legal -- response to illicit drug activity is through law enforcement, not military operations," the summary said. Enditem

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