Monday, February 20, 2006

British casualties in Iraq: MOD stalls the release of figures under the freedom of information act

Recent claims by John Reid, the UK defense secretary, that only 'about' 230 British troops had been injured in enemy action since the invasion of Iraq have been met with a certain level of incredulity. This lack of belief also extended into the mainstream.

Information on the actual number of casualties has been withheld by the UK government since the start of the war in 2003 and it has only been due to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) that any information at all on the true situation has emerged. We first attempted to obtain information from the MOD when the FOIA first came into force in the UK at the beginning of 2005, and subsequently posted our findings in September. The analysis we presented suggested that by September 2005 total British casualties approximated 1000. The latest, frankly unbelievable, statements from John Reid prompted another letter to the MOD and a fresh request for information disclosure under the FOIA.

Well, the reply has now arrived and it seems that the MOD has decided to stall on releasing full information on British casualties. Interesting indeed, given the latest position adopted by the minister...

Request for Information
17 February 2006

Thank you for your correspondence dated 21 January 2006 which requested information on British and Iraqi casualties. I am responding on behalf of the information holders and have dealt with your specific inquiries in turn.

What is the total number of British casualties that have been suffered in Iraq and adjacent countries and medical referral facilities, in all services, since the invasion of Iraq in 2003. The figure of interest includes both fatalities (available from your www site) and the number of wounded. The data requested would ideally contain a breakdown of wounded according to the severity of injury and, importantly, whether the injury occurred as a result of hostile action.

As you rightly point out, our website
/FactSheets/OperationsInIraqBritishFatalities.htm contains details pertaining to all 101 British Fatalities. In regard to personnel wounded, this letter is to inform you that we believe any information the Ministry of Defence may hold on this subject may fall within the scope of exemption s22 Information intended for future publication. This is a qualified exemption, so it is necessary for the Ministry of Defence to consider whether there are overriding reasons why disclosure would not be in the public interest.
We estimate that we will make a decision on our ability to comply with this part of your request within a further 15 working days, by 10 March 2006, and will inform you immediately.

The full letter (minus email) can be read here

I have written back to ask for clarification on the application of 'exemption s22'. Will keep you posted...