"Air operations have killed more civilians than Taliban," Nader Nadery, a commissioner with the human rights group, told Reuters news agency.

"Certainly, reduction of air operations decreases civilian deaths for it is difficult to distinguish between military and non-military people."

Human shields

Spokesmen from Nato and the US-led coalition have argued that many of the deaths are a result of the Taliban using civilians as human shields.

US forces said the latest air raid was launched
after an attack on a US-Afghan patrol [AFP]
Civilian deaths have sparked protests demanding the expulsion of foreign troops from Afghanistan and the resignation of Hamid Karzai, the president.

Karzai has repeatedly urged foreign forces to better coordinate operations with his government and warned that such mistakes could harm his government.

He has also launched an investigation into the air raids at the weekend, in which local officials say 62 suspected Taliban fighters were also killed.

The US military said that the raids were a response to an attack on a joint American-Afghan patrol and any civilian casualties were the result of Taliban fighters hiding among civilians.

Justice system

Meanwhile, Karzai was in Italy on Monday for a two-day conference aimed at strengthening Afghanistan's justice system amid the violence.

Experts say the challenges to establishing the rule of law after more than 25 years of violence are enormous, ranging from rebuilding courts and offices to training magistrates.

The conference will also try to provide concrete steps to improve co-ordination among law-enforcement officials and tackle corruption.

"We need to have a plan for the next five years, perhaps not necessarily a comprehensive, full-blown strategy, but we need to have some sort of a plan that talks about where we're going to be in five years," Geralyn Busnardo, an official with the Rome-based International Development Law Organisation said.

"That was something that was not well done for the past five years."

The International Development Law Organisation is working to establish the use of private attorneys to represent individuals in criminal or civil cases - something there is no history of in the country. There are now about 200 such lawyers.

The Rome conference includes regional powers such as Pakistan, along with foreign ministers from European countries, Nato and EU representatives, and delegations from the US, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.