Saturday, July 09, 2016

The British Government's Performance as an Occupying Power in Iraq: Failures under international law?

In a previous post we raised the question of why so little effort made by the British to document the number of casualties caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq? The Chilcot Report provides evidence that the British government had a neglectful and reckless attitude to the issue of civilian casualties. Two bullet points in the executive summary of the report* provide a damming verdict.

*[p29, Executive Summary]

The lack of effort put into monitoring casualties meant that the information required for assessing the performance of the British Government in its role as an occupying power was simply not available. As Chilcot describes, the focus of their efforts was driven by concern to avoid the impression that Coalition Forces were responsible for large numbers of deaths, rather than to find out if this were indeed true.

As an occupying power, Britain had a legal responsibility under the Hague Convention and the Geneva Conventions to restore and ensure, as far as possible, public order and safety, and public health standards. Given the failure to monitora core indicator of public health in a post-invasion context, i.e. violent deaths, it seems hard to imagine that Britain was taking reasonable steps to fulfil its legal obligations.  This dereliction of legal duty should be considered as a possible basis for legal action against the British Government and/or individuals within it..

Update 11/07/2016: Britain's failure to fulfil its obligations to protect the economy of Iraq from pillage have also now been raised. The door for prosecution of Blair and others under the Hague and Geneva conventions now seems very open. 

Friday, July 08, 2016

Will the 2016 NATO Conference Address Rising Afghan Civilian Casualties?

With the post-Chilcot search for accountability in full swing it is easy to forget the other ongoing wars in which the UK has taken a key role in initiating and/or perpetuating. These include Libya, Syria, and Afghanistan.  

The 2016 NATO conference takes place in Warsaw on July 8-9th. Human Rights Watch have written to NATO Heads of States to raise the issue of rising civilian casualties caused by pro-government troops; forces that have been trained and are being supported by NATO. An except from their letter is provided below:
"The UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) has documented a steady rise in civilian casualties since 2009, with each year setting a new record of civilian loss of life. In the first three months of 2016, one-third of civilian casualties were children.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups have been responsible for the vast majority of attacks that have caused significant civilian casualties in Afghanistan, particularly by carrying out suicide bombings in urban areas and planting IEDs on public roads. However, despite years of support and training by NATO allies, ANSF personnel are also increasingly responsible attacks that have killed civilians. In 2015, UNAMA documented a 28 percent increase over 2014 in civilian casualties caused by government security forces, most from the use of indirect fire weapons (mortars, rockets etc.) during ground engagements in civilian-populated areas. In the first three months of 2016, Afghan government forces were responsible for 369 civilian casualties—a 70 percent increase compared to the same period in 2015...."

Thursday, July 07, 2016

The Chilcot Report has Ignored Evidence on Intelligence Manipulation

While this blog focuses on a neutral assessment of issues around monitoring and recording the casualties war, it is, in the current circumstances, hard not to comment on other aspects of the Chilcot Report

One of the most baffling findings of the committee was that the UK government was not, despite all the evidence to the contrary, involved in deliberate manipulation and miss-representation of intelligence in the run up to war. While there are probably many factors driving the committee's decision, a quick couple of searches of the inquiry web site provides some parts of the answer. OK, lets try Katherine Gun...

And here's the result for Valerie Plame...

However, Hollywood dares to tread where Sir John does not. Harrison Ford and Anthony Hopkins will be shortly be starring in Official Secrets, a film about Katherine Gun, who was a Mandarin translator for GCHQ in Cheltenham. The film describes what happened to her when she blew the whistle on the illegal activities undertaken by the British to try and manipulate the UN Security Council into endorsing the invasion. 

And Fair Game, the story of US manipulation of information on nuclear weapons in the Niger 'yellow cake' scandal was already released in 2011 (starring Sean Penn and Naomi Watts, who played Valerie Plame). While in the later case the protagonists are American, President Bush stated in his state of the union speech in Jan 2003 that "The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa." An accusation against Iraq that was proven to be false. 

Why Sir John and his committee have chosen to ignore the clear evidence of British involvement in manipulating intelligence (as well as sexing it up) is something that may only emerge if Blair or others are put on trial. Unfortunately, the Chilcot Report has not delivered closure but raised additional questions over the extent and depth of establishment denial and cover up. Further and more robust action is required.

Accounting for Civilian Casualties in Iraq: Another British Failure

Why was so little effort made by the British to document the number of casualties caused by the invasion and occupation of Iraq? And why was little done to ensure they were minimised while much was done to discredit attempts to measure the war's impact?

Chilcot* says this:

*[p29, Executive Summary]

Tuesday, July 05, 2016

The Chilcot Report - At last

The long, long, overdue Chilcot Report on British involvement in the invasion and occupation of Iraq will finally be published on Thursday 6th July.

The enquiry was began in 2009 and has lasted over 7 years. Pre-release briefings suggest that the report will be difficult to read due to its excessive length, and that it will distribute blame so widely and thinly that in the end no one is held accountable. But let’s wait and see. Few people would wish their names to go down in history next to the author of the infamous Hutton Report, so perhaps Sir John Chilcot has managed to produce something more credible and useful?

The report publication has certainly been causing concern amongst those most directly responsible for British involvement. Tony Blair and Alistair Campbell, for example, have been working feverishly to ensure that the current labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, is deposed before the report is published, but with one day to go it looks like they have failed. Corbyn has stated his intention to call for legal action against Blair if justified by the Chilcot Report, so the stakes are high.

To what extent the report will cover issues around British military casualty reporting, the different methods used for documentation of Iraqi casualties, and accountability for military policy and practice remains unclear. Likewise, it is not clear whether the report will address issues such as British special forces involvement in large scale undercover assassination campaigns, and British involvement in the mistreatment and torture of prisoners of war. So the scope of the report as well as its contents will be of wide interest.

Finally, it is interesting to see the BBC being remarkably robust in its criticism of the British involvement over the last week. Jeremy Bowen’s reports and references to the Chilcot report are getting airtime. Their Panorama documentary is also a good primer and reminder of some of the human issues that the weighty Chilcot Report will be addressing. 

Friday, April 22, 2016

Guardian Reports on the Increasing Use of Drone Attacks by USAF in Afghanistan

US drone strikes outnumber warplane attacks for first time in Afghanistan  
"Drones are firing more weapons than conventional warplanes for the first time in Afghanistan and the ratio is rising, previously unreported US Air Force data for 2015 show, underlining how reliant the military has become on unmanned aircraft.

...In 2015, drones released about 530 bombs and missiles in Afghanistan, half the number in 2014 when weapons dropped by unmanned aircraft peaked." 

Saturday, April 02, 2016

Updated Data for British Casualties in Afghanistan

Data from the MOD on British casualties up to the end of 2014 has now been added and a new summary table included.

Updated Graphs for Afghan Civilian Casualties

The graphs and data for Afghan civilian casualties have now been updated to include the latest UNAMA report, which covers the period to the end of 2015. The graphs shows a continued upward trend in conflict related civilian casualties.

As noted by ICRC last month, humanitarian concerns continue to grow as international concern dwindles.

Friday, April 01, 2016

The News Feed!

The previous gadget being used for generating the Casualty Monitor news feed had been discontinued by Google. So, this has now been replaced and hopefully things will now be back to normal. Thanks for your patience.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Updated Links and News Feed Fix

We are pleased to add links to three additional organisations working on different aspects of casualty reporting. These are Airwars, Remote Control, and Every Casualty. The problem with the news feed 'going native' and churning out irrelevant, tech industry related news has also, hopefully, been fixed.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Civilian Casualty Data for Afghanistan in 2011

The figures from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) have been added to the civilian casualty monitoring page. They show a continued upward trend with 3,021 fatalities and 4,507 injuries documented during 2011. The reporting of estimates for civilian injuries is a welcome addition to the previously reported fatality estimates. These figures bring the total civilian casualty estimate for the war since 2007 to 24,295. 

The figures very likely only represent the tip of the total numbers since the start of the war in 2001, and, of course, take no account of the Afghans killed and injured while fighting the occupation.

British Casualties in Afghanistan: Data updated for 2011

An updated analysis of casualty data for British forces in Afghanistan has been posted, covering the period until the end of 2011. Total UK casualties for 2011 were 2,183, including 46 fatalities and 1,147 aero-medical evacuations. The peaks seen in 2009/10 did not occur during 2011, and overall casualty levels have returned to a similar level as seen in 2008. The monthly trend shows a downwards slope from September 2010, when US forces took over combat in Sangin District, through to the end of the year.

With recent events in Afghanistan the prospects for 2012 remain uncertain. We plan to provide a more reliable update service in 2012 to follow these developments and thank you for your patience.