EXTERNAL AI Index: ASA 11/13/95
EXTRA 110/95 Fear for safety 22 September 1995
AFGHANISTAN Civilians in Kabul
The Taleban, an armed opposition group in Afghanistan have threatened a
bombardment of Kabul if the forces of Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani
do not surrender by 24 September. On 20 September, Agence France-Presse quoted
Mullah Mishr, the Taleban frontline commander based in the provincial capital
Maidan Shahr, south-west of Kabul, as saying: "We have given them a five-day
ultimatum, starting from today,"
Earlier, on 15 September, the Pakistani newspaper, The News, reported that
the Taleban had threatened to attack the Afghan capital if President Rabbani
does not step down. It quoted a Taleban spokesman as saying that diplomats,
members of humanitarian organizations and all foreigners should leave Kabul
or take shelter in safe locations.
Amnesty International is appealing to the Taleban leaders to ensure the safety
of the civilian population of Kabul and, in particular, to ensure that their
armed forces refrain from deliberate or indiscriminate attacks, which includes
shelling, on civilians. Amnesty International further urges the Taleban
leaders to respect the principle of humanitarian law that are designed to ensure
the protection of civilians and non-combatants in situations of armed conflict.
Continued hostilities have resulted in catastrophic human rights abuses inside
Afghanistan. All warring factions have carried out attacks against residential
areas with disregard for the principles of international humanitarian law.
The factions have usually justified targeting civilians in residential areas
by saying that the people living there have supported a rival group. Tens of
thousands of people have been killed in various parts of the country by the
bombs dropped and rockets launched deliberately or indiscriminately against
their homes, schools, hospitals or even places where they have sought shelter
from such attacks. The vast majority of the victims have been non-combatant
Previous attacks against Kabul stopped when the Taleban forces entered and
subsequently retreated from western Kabul and its surrounding areas about five
months ago. The relative calm allowed humanitarian organizations to set up
operations in the capital.
With the threat of a renewed attack against the city, once again fear of a
repetition of the daily bombing of Kabul which started in January 1994 and
lasted for over a year, leaving tens of thousands of people dead and hundreds
of thousands homeless has made the protection of unarmed civilians a prime
human rights concern.
The 600,000 remaining inhabitants of Kabul will find difficulty to seek shelter
from a renewed attack, and since few places in Kabul have been immune from
deliberate or indiscriminate attacks in the past, Kabul's non-combatant
residents are once again at risk of becoming the targets.
It is difficult to see how non-combatant residents of this battered city can
find safety in another location. To leave Kabul, they will have to cross numerous
check-points manned by the armed guards of the various factions who continue