The watchdog said in a statement on Wednesday that security personnel found to be responsible for abuses, including failing to report possible war crimes, should be held accountable.
On the evening of January 31, the Special Forces Unit of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) backed by US airstrikes began an offensive against Taliban insurgents in the Band-e-Timor area in Maiwand district and the Reg area of Panjwai district, according to official reports, the statement said.
The HRW quoted local residents as saying Afghan security forces opened fire on men as they attempted to flee, killing about 50 Taliban fighters and at least 20 civilians.
“When the airplanes came we fled. But as the people were running away the forces were shooting them,” an eyewitness said as quoted by the HRW.
Security force members allegedly dragged some men from their homes and then shot them, the statement said.
The NDS reported that 38 men were detained following the operation.
“The alleged deaths of at least twenty civilians in Band-e-Timor demands a prompt and impartial investigation,” said Patricia Gossman, senior Afghanistan researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“Summarily executing people in custody, whether they are fighters or civilians, is a war crime. Only a full investigation can uncover all who may be responsible,” she added.
“The Afghan government’s failure to investigate past possible crimes by Kandahar’s security forces makes an investigation of this incident all the more important,” Gossman said.
“Unlawful killings won’t stop unless there is real accountability,” she said.