Civilian Harm

  • US Military assessments of civilian harm

    Lessons learned from the international fight against ISIS


    This briefing paper by Airwars outlines 25 better practice recommendations for the US DoD with regard to civilian casualty tracking, assessment, reporting and mitigation. The practical recommendations are based primarily on Airwars’ engagement with civilian casualty assessment cells within the US military over several years, specifically within the context of anti-ISIS Coalition operations.

    The recommendations range from the US military ensuring wherever possible that it conducts on the ground investigations into harm allegations; to ensuring that grid references for all confirmed casualty events are made public; to rolling out best practice standards across commands and coalitions. Practical and brief, this report is useful to all those interested in learning more about the practical aspects of civilian harm tracking.


  • In Search of Answers: U.S. Military Investigations and Civilian Harm

    U.S. Military Investigations and Civilian Harm

    Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) & Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute  

    Based on research carried out by Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) and Columbia Law School Human Rights Institute between 2017 and 2019, “In Search of Answers: U.S. Military Investigations and Civilian Harm” examines how the U.S. military tracks, assesses, and investigates reports of civilian harm by its forces, both in theory and in practice. The research team analyzed 228 investigation reports documenting military investigations into alleged civilian casualty incidents in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, between 2002 and 2015 and conducted in-depth interviews with current and former military officers and U.S. government officials, as well as with civil society representatives with expertise on investigation procedures and responses to civilian harm.


  • The Uncounted

    Azmat Khan & Anand Gopal  

    The Uncounted” is an online piece by investigative journalist Azmat Khan and reporter and an assistant research professor Anand Gopal about the civilians killed in the U.S. campaign against the Islamic State and the considerable gap between their tally of such deaths and the numbers reported by the Pentagon.


  • I saw my city die

    Voices from the front lines of urban conflict in Iraq, Syria and Yemen


    Urban wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen are amongst the deadliest conflicts of our time. Through first-hand stories of residents of cities like Aleppo in Syria, Mosul in Iraq and Taiz in Yemen, a special report of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) ‘I saw my city die‘ vividly explores the consequences of these conflicts for communities and cities, and for entire countries. Drawing from the present and from the experience of cities like Beirut, during and after Lebanon’s 15-year civil war, the report makes clear and urgent recommendations about the immediate and longer-term steps that military forces and armed groups, governments and others can and must take to help alleviate and prevent human suffering. You can also find this report on the interactive page City at War.


  • Civil Society Guidance for a Model Policy

    Civil Society Guidance for a Model Policy

    U.S Department of Defense Policy (DoD) on Civilian Harm  

    This paper sets our priorities and expectations from humanitarian and human rights non-governmental organizations for the forthcoming U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) policy on civilian harm and sets forth critical elements of a comprehensive policy on civilian harm in U.S. military operations and security partnerships.


  • How the counts reduce the casualties

    Julia Knittel  
    Action on Armed Violence

    There is both a moral and international legal imperative to keep tallies of casualties of armed violence. Non-combatants are protected under the Geneva Conventions, and political statements about the imperative of protecting civilians abound. Recording casualties helps to understand the dynamics that lead to violence and is a first step toward changing the escalation of force. ‘How the counts reduce the casualties‘ highlights four ways in which accurate records of deaths and injuries can help reduce armed violence.


  • Beyond the Battlefield. Towards a Better Assessment of the Human Costs of Armed Conflict

    E. Alda and C. Mc Envoy  
    Small Arms Survey

    This Briefing Paper makes a case for stepping up efforts to measure and understand the entire range of conflict-related deaths. The paper argues that the current understanding of—and measurement approaches to—conflict-related deaths should be broadened to include more comprehensive mortality figures from conflict zones, particularly among forcibly displaced populations. The paper also discusses the importance of developing more nuanced, context-specific methods for estimating the relationship between direct and indirect conflict deaths.


  • The Strategic Costs of Civilian Harm. Applying Lessons from Afghanistan to Current and Future Conflicts

    C.D. Kolenda, R. Reid, C. Rogers and M. Retzius  
    Open Society Foundations

    This report examines how the U.S. military learned from its early mistakes in Afghanistan and applied lessons to mitigate civilian harm.


  • Minimizing Civilian Harm in Populated Areas: Lessons from Examining ISAF and AMISOM Policies

    Sahr Muhammedally  
    International Review of the Red Cross

    Both the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM) and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) have recognized the importance of reducing civilian harm, and adopted policies and practices that restrict the use of certain weapons in populated areas. This  article examines both ISAF and AMISOM policies and practices to reduce civilian harm in populated areas and explores how these policies strengthened adherence to international humanitarian law and illustrated new ways in which armed actors can take feasible precautions and prioritize civilian protection.


  • Afghanistan. Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict. Annual Report 2017

    UNAMA Human Rights Service  

    The UNAMA Human Rights Service prepared this report pursuant to the UNAMA mandate under United Nations Security Council Resolution 2344 (2017) “to monitor the situation of civilians, to coordinate efforts to ensure their protection, to monitor places of detention, to promote accountability, and to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights provisions of the Afghan Constitution and international treaties to which Afghanistan is a State party, in particular those regarding the full enjoyment by women of their human rights.” The report covers the period from 1 January to 31 December 2017.


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