Friday, April 27, 2007

Under-reporting of British Wounded Revealed by Dissident Soldiers

From The Independent: 'Serving British soldier exposes horror of war in 'crazy' Basra'

A British soldier has broken ranks within days of returning from Iraq to speak publicly of the horror of his tour of duty there, painting a picture of troops under siege, "sitting ducks" to an increasingly sophisticated insurgency...

Pte Barton felt so strongly that he telephoned his local paper, the Tamworth Herald, to speak of the "side you don't hear".

The regiment lost one soldier, Pte Johnathon Wysoczan, 21, during its tour, but 33 more were injured. "I was the first one to get to one of the tents after it was hit, where one of my mates was in bed. The top of his head and his hand was blown off. He is now brain damaged.

"We were losing people and didn't have enough to replace them. You hear about the fatalities but not the injuries. We have had four who got shot in the arm, a bloke got blown up twice by roadside bombs and shot in the neck and survived."

For the full article go here

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

UN Report Underlines Iraqi Government Failure to Accurately Monitor Casualties

The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) issued its tenth report today on the human rights situation in the country, covering the period 1 January to 31 March 2007. Some of the key findings are summarised below:
  • The Government of Iraq continued to face immense security challenges in the face of growing violence and armed opposition to its authority and the rapidly worsening humanitarian crisis.
  • The UN mission for Iraq said Iraqi authorities had failed to guarantee the basic rights of about 3,000 people they had detained in the Baghdad Security Plan operations.
  • The UN Assistance Mission in Iraq again called for access to Iraqi government files on civilian casualty figures which had been denied them. The Iraqi goverment withdrew access after the UN reported in January that 34,452 civilians were killed and more than 36,000 wounded in 2006. These figures were much higher than claimed by Iraqi government officials.
  • On 1 March, the Ministry of Interior announced that 1,646 civilians were killed in February, the majority of them in Baghdad. It was unclear on what basis these figures were compiled.
  • At the beginning of January, up to 50 or more unidentified bodies were being found on a daily basis in Baghdad alone, with scores more in areas such as Mosul and Suwayra.
  • During the reporting period, UNAMI continued to investigate several incidents involving the alleged killing of civilians in the context of military operations conducted by MNF forces. In one incident in al-Ramadi on 21 February, medical sources at al-Ramadi Hospital reported that 26 people had been killed, among them four women and children.
  • The report said four million Iraqis were at risk because of lack of food.
The full report can be accessed here

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Impact of War on the Civilian Population of Afghanistan: new report from Amnesty International

Amnesty International today released a new report on the impact of the war on the civilian population of Afghanistan.

In their report: All who are not friends, are enemies: Taleban abuses against civilians they claim that:
"The Taleban have been responsible for hundreds of civilian deaths. According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC),(4) around 600 civilians were killed or wounded in the first seven months of 2006. Around 70 per cent of these casualties were linked to Taleban attacks.(5) The Taleban have targeted and killed civilians whom they consider to be "spies" or "collaborators", including Afghan and foreign reconstruction and aid workers, religious leaders, government administrators, women’s rights activists and teachers. The Taleban have attacked civilians and civilian objects, such as school buildings, with little or no effort to distinguish between these and military targets, such as soldiers and combat vehicles.

...While Amnesty International has reported elsewhere on its concerns over the past two years relating to abuses by international forces,(6) this report focuses on violations of international humanitarian law and human rights abuses by the Taleban, covering the period January 2005 to March 2007, including threats, intimidation and attack targeting civilians and indiscriminate attacks, including suicide bombings attacks on schools, abductions and unlawful killings of captives. The report urges all parties to the conflict to adhere to international humanitarian law by which they are bound and to operate within a human rights framework, and makes detailed recommendations to the Taleban and other armed groups."
Previous AI documentation of abuses committed by US troops and their allies includes:

2005 USA / Afghanistan: More deaths and impunity

2006 Afghanistan: NATO member states must uphold human rights

Monday, April 16, 2007

Files on Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq: ACLU launches online database

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has, in the last few days, made public hundreds of files on civilians killed or injured by Coalition Forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The ACLU received the records in response to a Freedom of Information Act request it filed in June 2006.

They have made available 496 files of incidents where claims have been made by the families of the victims against coalition forces: 479 from Iraq and 17 from Afghanistan. So, bear in mind this is not a complete record of incidents, rather a partial record of claims made by families.

They claim that the hundreds of files provide a vivid snapshot, in significantly more detail than has previously been compiled and released, of the circumstances surrounding reports of civilian deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan. Usefully, they have created an online database that can be searched to find details of particular incidents and a complete log of the claims can also be browsed.

"Since U.S. troops first set foot in Afghanistan in 2001, the Defense Department has gone to unprecedented lengths to control and suppress information about the human costs of war," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. " Our democracy depends on an informed citizenry, and it is critical that the American people have access to full and accurate information about the prosecution of the war and the implications for innocent civilians."

Their full press release is available here.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Civilians without protection - The ever-worsening crisis in Iraq

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has published a report on the dire and deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq.

Geneva (ICRC) - In a report issued today in Geneva, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) expresses alarm about the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Iraq and calls for urgent action to better protect civilians against the continuing violence.

The report entitled Civilians without protection - The ever-worsening crisis in Iraq deplores the daily acts of violence such as shootings, bombings, abductions, murders and military operations that directly target Iraqi civilians in clear violation of international humanitarian law and other applicable legal standards. While it argues that the current crisis directly or indirectly affects all Iraqis, the report focuses on the problems of vulnerable groups such as the hundreds of thousands of Iraqis forced to flee their homes and the families that host them.

The report documents the alarming state of Iraqi health-care facilities suffering critical shortages of staff and supplies. Many doctors, nurses and patients no longer dare to go to hospitals and clinics because they are targeted or threatened. The report also underlines that much of Iraq's vital water, sewage and electricity infrastructure is in a critical condition owing to lack of maintenance and because security constraints have impeded repair work.

"The suffering that Iraqi men, women and children are enduring today is unbearable and unacceptable. Their lives and dignity are continuously under threat," said the ICRC's director of operations, Pierre Krähenbühl. "The ICRC calls on all those who can influence the situation on the ground to act now to ensure that the lives of ordinary people are spared and protected. This is an obligation under international humanitarian law for both States and non-State actors."

Their report can be downloaded from here

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

New look - New focus

Well, it was time for a make-over, and its a job still in process.
Hopefully the new look is/will be a bit cleaner, clearer and clutter free, and even more attractive...

As for the focus, we expect to provide more data analysis, and less re-posts. Aiming at a narrower range of topics, we hope to contribute to the pool of valid information on which people can make their own judgements on the UK government's conduct of foreign policy and the 'war on terror'. In particular, we will be continuing our work on monitoring UK casualties and trying to ensure the Ministry of Defence provides full information on the human cost of the wars initiated in Iraq and Afghanistan.

So more to come ... thanks for your interest and please check back soon.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Release of Detained Britains by Iran: Linked to release of kidnapped Iranian official?

Much earlier than many thought possible, diplomacy has triumphed and the Iranian-British standoff over the arrest of 15 British personnel has come to an end. At around 17:30 BBC Online confirmed the news that the British detainees were being released. A rare piece of good political news from that region of the Middle East.

The BBC also say that no concessions were made by the UK - but is this really true? The previous day a news item was circulated about the release of an Iranian kidnap victim, Jalal Sharafi, from Iraq, who the Iranians say was captured by forces under the control of the US. In addition, counsular and Red Cross access is now to be granted to the five Iranian diplomats being held in Iraq. Perhaps the US and its allies are starting to learn the price that comes with ignoring international norms and laws on the treatment of prisoners?

Murky dividing lines of Shatt al-Arab

It seems the BBC are now also up to speed on the mis-representation of the nature of the Iraq - Iran maritime border. The disputed nature of the border, and the inherent complexities in deciding whether the British marines were on one side or the other, were flagrantly disregard by both the UK and Iranian governments in the handling of the incident to date. But now there is some hope of a negotiated settlement - just as long as Blair is constrained from any further imprudent and inaccurate rhetoric...
"A shifting coastline with mud flats that appear and disappear over time mean you don't have a sound basis with which to draw a median line."

"The line could shift from month to month. It makes it much harder to see with any confidence. And that is the case in this situation."

"Iran and Iraq have never agreed a boundary of their territorial waters. There is no legal definition of the boundary beyond the Shatt al-Arab."

"This area is extremely contested. It is an area of great dispute."

He said the UK had "made a big mistake by producing a map that has a very definite red line and saying we were definitely in Iraqi waters".

For the full article go here

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

British MOD Issued Two Different Coordinates for the Gulf Incident

The UK Ministry of Defence website still contains their widely quoted press release, issued on the 28th March, which attempts to clearly establish that the arrest of the fifteen British sailors and marines by Iran took place in Iraqi waters.

Unfortunately for the MOD, it appears that they have used two different sets of position coordinates to fix the site of the incident. One of these coordinates is quoted in the text (para 4), another is pictured in their photograph taken from a helicoptor. Furthermore, the data was presented in the same press briefing. Assuming that both sets of data were expressed using the same coordinate system this is, at the least, an embarrassing over sight.

Compare this...
Click to see the original image on the MOD site
Click to see the original image on the MOD site
With this...
"As shown on the chart, the merchant vessel was 7.5 nautical miles south east of the Al Faw Peninsula and clearly in Iraqi territorial waters. Her master has confirmed that his vessel was anchored within Iraqi waters at the time of the arrest. The position was 29 degrees 50.36 minutes North 048 degrees 43.08 minutes East. This places her 1.7 nautical miles inside Iraqi territorial waters. This fact has been confirmed by the Iraqi Foreign Ministry."
We have submitted the following Freedom of Information request to the MOD to try and clarify what was going on:

I am writing regarding the press release "MOD briefing shows Royal Navy personnel were in Iraqi waters" March 28th 2007, published online at

It can be observed that the coordinates on the Garmin GPS handset photo on the MOD site are different from the coordinates quoted in the text of the same press release (N 29 50.174 vs. N 29 50.36 and E 48 43.544 vs. E 48 43.08).

It therefore appears, that according to the GPS data, the ship was actually 0.5 nautical miles further east (towards Iran) than stated and 0.2 nautical miles further south.

My questions for the FOI request are:

(1) which of the 2 coordinate data published by the MOD should be taken as indicating the position of the incident?

(2) are both sets of coordinate data expressed in the same geographic coordinate system and what is the system used?

With thanks

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Craig Muray on Blair and the Faked Iran Map

From This is London

Like most senior Royal Navy officers, Commodore Nick Lambert has great reserves of professional expertise and common sense. The Coalition task force commander was aboard HMS Cornwall when 15 Royal Navy personnel serving on the frigate were seized at gunpoint by Iranian forces on March 23.

The Navy states the 14 men and one woman were on a routine patrol in rigid inflatables off Iraqi shores - Iran insists they were in its waters illegally.

A few hours after the 15 were seized, Cdre Lambert said: 'There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that they were in Iraqi territorial waters. Equally, the Iranians may well claim that they were in their territorial waters. The extent and definition of territorial waters in this part of the world is very complicated.'

And his predecessor in command of the task force, Commodore Peter Lockwood of the Royal Australian Navy, said last October: 'No maritime border has been agreed upon by the countries.'

Both officers told the truth. It is the burial of this truth by No 10 spin doctors, and Tony Blair's remark that he is 'utterly certain' the incident took place within Iraqi territorial limits, that has escalated this from an incident to a crisis. Blair is being fatuous.

How can you be certain which side of a boundary you are when that boundary has never been drawn?

For more from the Craig Murray blog on the continuing crisis go here