Cablegate: Air Strike in Afghanistan - #18 in Geneva 2007

R 100958Z JUL 07



E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Air strike in Afghanistan - #18 in Geneva 2007
Communications Log

1. Mission has received a communication from the Special Rapporteur
on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Philip Alston,
regarding the U.S. led Coalition air strike in Zarghun Sha,
Afghanistan. This communication has been sent via e-mail to IO-RHS
and is number 18 on the Geneva 2007 Communications Log.

2. Begin text of letter:

I have the honour to address you in my capacity as Special
Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions
pursuant to Commission on Human Rights resolution 2004/37, to
General Assembly resolution 60/251 and to Human Rights Council
decision 2006/102.

I am writing concerning information I have received about a series
of recent incidents in which civilians are reported to have been
killed in Afghanistan in the course of United States air strikes.
According to information I have received on 18 June, 2007 seven
children were killed in a US led Coalition air strike in Zarghun
Shah, Paktika Province, Afghanistan. It was reported that the
children were students at a madrassa situated in the targeted
compound which also included a mosque. Reported Coalition statements
include that "Coalition Forces confirmed the presence of nefarious
activity occurring at the site before getting approval to conduct an
air strike on the location" and later that the Coalition did not
believe any children were in or around the compound during the day.

According to information I have received, 21 civilians were killed
by US led forces in an air strike on 9 May, 2007 in Sangin District,
Helmand Province. It is my understanding that US led forces were
ambushed by Taleban forces on 8 May, 2007 25km north of Sangin town
killing one soldier and in response, air strikes were made on three
villages killing a number of persons. It was reported that a US
military spokesperson Major William Mitchell confirmed military
operations in the area, but denied that he had received reports of
civilian casualties.

According to information I have received, over fifty civilians were
killed during the week beginning 30 April, 2007 in Shindand
district, Herat Province in the course of land and air strikes
conducted by US led forces. My understanding is that whilst UN and
Afghan police reported the above civilian deaths, US led forces
reported that they had killed 136 combatants and were unaware of any
civilian deaths.

Without in any way wishing to pre-judge the accuracy of the
information received, it is my responsibility under the mandate
provided to me by the Commission on Human Rights and extended by the
Human Rights Council, to seek to clarify cases brought to my
attention. Since I am expected to report on this case to the Human
Rights Council, I would be grateful for your cooperation and your
observations on the following matters:

1. Is the information according to which United States led forces
killed 78 civilians in Afghanistan in the above three specified
incidents accurate?

2. Does your Excellency's Government intend to provide compensation
to the families of the civilians killed above? If so, what steps
have been taken in this direction?
3 Kindly provide a copy of the investigation(s) carried out into the
above incidents. I am particularly interested in information related
to two issues. First, how was it determined whether each decision to
resort to lethal force complied with the applicable international
law? Second, how was it determined whether the persons killed were
civilians or combatants?

4. Kindly provide details of any disciplinary action or criminal
proceedings against those soldiers found to be responsible.

I would appreciate a response within sixty days. I undertake to
ensure that your Government's response to each of these questions is
accurately reflected in the report I will submit to the Human Rights
Council for its consideration.

Please accept, Excellency, the assurances of my highest

Philip Alston Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or
arbitrary executions

End of text.



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