United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned an attack on the UN’s main compound in Herat, Afghanistan, saying assaults against personnel and premises of the world organisation are prohibited under international law and may constitute war crimes.
The main UN compound in Herat was attacked by “anti-government elements” on Friday and at least one security guard was killed, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
“The Secretary-General strongly condemns attack against a United Nations compound in Herat, Afghanistan, which resulted in the killing of an Afghan security forces guard and injuries to other officers,” a statement issued Friday by the Secretary General’s spokesperson said.
Mr. Guterres recalled that attacks against UN personnel and premises are prohibited under international law and may constitute war crimes.
Expressing condolences to the bereaved family and wishing those injured a speedy recovery, Mr. Guterres reiterated the United Nations commitment to support the Government and people of Afghanistan in their efforts to achieve peace and stability.
UNAMA also condemned “in the strongest terms” the attack on its main compound in Herat.
It said that the area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting Friday between the Taliban and government forces. The UN is urgently seeking to establish a full picture of the attack and for this purpose is in contact with the relevant parties.
“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured.” UNAMA said attacks against civilian UN personnel and compounds are prohibited under international law and may amount to war crimes.
While no UN personnel was hurt in the incident, in which entrances were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, Ms. Lyons said, “the perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account.” The United Nations in Afghanistan is a civilian entity focused on supporting peace efforts, promoting the rights of all Afghans and providing humanitarian and development assistance.
“The UN expresses its gratitude to the Afghan Directorate of Protection Services officers who defended the compound from the attackers,” the mission said.
Earlier this week, UNAMA’s Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Update 2021 documented 5,183 civilian casualties (1,659 killed and 3,524 injured), a 47 % increase compared with the same period in 2020.
In the report, the United Nations "warns that without a significant de-escalation in violence Afghanistan is on course for 2021 to witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year since UNAMA records began” in 2009.
The report said that of serious concern is the acute rise in the number of civilians killed and injured in the period from May 1, as international military forces began their withdrawal and the fighting intensified following the Taliban’s offensive.
Almost as many civilian casualties in the May-June period were recorded as in the entire preceding four months. The number of civilian casualties during May and June – 2,392 in total (783 killed and 1,609 injured) – was the highest for those months since UNAMA began its systematic documentation in 2009.
The period January-April 2021 saw 2,791 civilian casualties (876 killed and 1,915 injured).
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict's grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians. The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," Ms. Lyons had said.