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Amnesty appeals to warring sides

Afghan refugee
One of the refugees who has managed to escape the fighting and flee to Pakistan  

LONDON, England -- The human rights group Amnesty International is calling on warring parties in Afghanistan to respect rules governing hostilities.

It called on the United States and its allies as well as the ruling Taliban regime and the Northern Alliance to follow the international rules of war laid out in the Geneva Convention, 1949, to which all are signed up to.

The call came on the third day of missile attacks carried out by the U.S. on Afghanistan.

"Now that the United States of America and the United Kingdom have launched military strikes against targets in Afghanistan, their forces and their Taliban opponents must ensure full respect for human rights and the rules and principles governing international armed conflicts," Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday.

It warned that "vulnerable" groups, such as women, children and ethnic minorities "must not be subject to further abuses."

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"Captured combatants must be treated as Prisoners of War in accordance with the Third Geneva Convention," it added.

It said those suspected of masterminding the September 11 plane hijack attacks on New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in which more than 5,5000 people are feared dead should be sent to a fair trial without fear of the death penalty.

"If any suspect of the crimes of 11 September, 2001, is captured during military action, they should be brought to justice through a fair trial and without the possibility of the death penalty," the statement added.

It said human rights had already been violated during the six year conflict between the Northern Alliance and the ruling Taliban.

"Both sides have been responsible for serious human rights abuses in the context of this conflict."

It also called for neighbouring Iran to open its borders and allow Afghan refugees fleeing the fighting to cross into its territory -- adding to the 2.3 million already seeking refuge.

Iran says it cannot handle any more influx of refugees, and there is no sign of it opening its border again despite urgent calls from the United Nations.

Pakistan has also received hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees.


• Amnesty International

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