Serious and individual threat to a civilian’s life or person by reason of indiscriminate violence in situations of international or internal armed conflict
Last update: April 2022
The necessary elements in order to apply Article 15(c) QD are:
Figure 2. Article 15(c) QD: elements of the assessment.
In order to apply Article 15(c) QD, the above elements should be established cumulatively.
The following is a summary of the relevant conclusions concerning the situation in Afghanistan:
- Armed conflict: Over the summer months of 2021, the Taliban’s offensive advanced rapidly and resulted in them taking over almost all of the country. ANSF personnel often withdrew from positions without engaging in confrontations. In their statements following the takeover of Kabul in August 2021, the Taliban declared the war to be over. However, in some areas resistance armed groups were organised and armed confrontations took place. ISKP also continues to be active in the country.
- Civilian: Article 15(c) QD applies to a person who is not a member of any of the parties to the conflict and is not taking part in the hostilities, potentially including former combatants who have genuinely and permanently renounced armed activity. The applications by persons under the following profiles should be examined carefully. Based on an individual assessment, such applicants may be found not to qualify as civilians under Article 15(c) QD. For example:
- Armed groups opposing the Taliban: several paramilitary groups continued to exist or were formed in the final days of the Taliban offensive and after their takeover
- Other armed groups: other armed groups active in Afghanistan include, for example, ISKP, IMU, the Haqqani Network, Al Qaeda, Jundullah.
It should be noted that actively taking part in hostilities is not limited to openly carrying arms but could also include substantial logistical and/or administrative support to combatants.
It is important to underline that the assessment of protection needs is forward-looking. Therefore, the main issue at hand is whether the applicant will be a civilian or not upon return. The fact that the person took part in hostilities in the past would not necessarily mean that Article 15(c) QD would not be applicable to him or her.
- Indiscriminate violence: Indiscriminate violence and civilian casualties have dropped significantly following the takeover by the Taliban. Conflict-induced displacement has also decreased since August 2021. Following the withdrawal of international troops, one of the main actors of the previous conflict (former Afghan government) has ceased to exist, while the conflict between the Taliban and ISKP continues. The violence which takes place in the country is reportedly targeted, however, civilian casualties have also been observed in the course of such incidents. Security incidents were also taking place particularly in certain areas of the country. Therefore, at the time of writing, the level of indiscriminate violence is considered to be significantly lower than before (the Taliban takeover). Nevertheless, the future risk of indiscriminate violence in any part of the country, should always be based on the most recent information concerning the dynamics in the particular area as well as the country as a whole. Limitations with regard to reliable reporting from the country should also be taken into account.
As the security situation in Afghanistan evolves, in order to make a forward-looking assessment with regard to the level of risk due to indiscriminate violence in a situation of armed conflict, the following elements could be taken into account on the basis of relevant and up-to-date COI:
- Actors in the conflict: including the emergence and/or operational capacity of different actors the potential involvement of other states in the conflict, the duration and relative stability of control of a particular actor in the territory, etc.
- Incidents and civilian casualties: the methods and tactics being used, the frequency of incidents and their impact in terms of civilian casualties.
- Geographical scope: some conflict-related violence may be limited to a certain region based on the actors involved, for example in relation to local armed groups resisting the Taliban.
- Displacement: Conflict-related displacement may be an important indicator of the level of violence taking place and/or the perception of the risk by the civilian population.
- Serious and individual threat: In the context of the ‘sliding scale’, each case should be assessed individually, taking into account the nature and intensity of the violence in the area, along with the combination of personal circumstances present in the applicant’s case. Certain personal circumstances could contribute to an enhanced risk of indiscriminate violence, including its direct and indirect consequences. While it is not feasible to provide exhaustive guidance what the relevant personal circumstances could be and how those should be assessed, the following are highlighted as possible examples of circumstances which may impact the ability of a person to assess and/or avoid risks related to indiscriminate violence in a situation of an armed conflict:
- health condition and disability, including mental health issues
- economic situation
- knowledge of the area
- occupation of the applicant
- Threat to life or person: The risk of harm as per Article 15(c) QD is formulated as a ‘threat to a civilian’s life or person’ rather than as a (threat of) a specific act of violence. Some of the commonly reported types of harm to civilians’ life or person in Afghanistan include killings, injuries, abductions, disabilities caused by landmines, etc.
- Nexus: The nexus ‘by reason of’ refers to the causal link between the indiscriminate violence and the harm (serious threat to a civilian´s life or person) and includes:
- harm which is directly caused by the indiscriminate violence or by acts that emanate from the actors in the conflict, and
- harm which is indirectly caused by the indiscriminate violence in a situation of armed conflict. Indirect effects are only considered to a certain extent and as long as there is a demonstrable link with the indiscriminate violence, for example: widespread criminal violence as a result of lawlessness, destruction of the necessary means to survive, destruction of infrastructure, denial of or limited access of humanitarian aid, limited access to healthcare facilities. Armed clashes and/or road blockages can also lead to food supply problems that cause famine or to limited or no access to healthcare facilities in certain regions in Afghanistan.