Amends & Post Harm Assistance
“We have suffered a lot. If we can get some compensation for our losses so we have a home and get a chance to live with dignity then it will help us.”—Fatima*, a mother who lost her home and leg when a rocket hit her house in Idlib governate in Syria.
We’re pressing warring parties to recognize and assist the civilians they harm. One conflict after another, we’re building a new expectation in war: that the tragedy of civilian losses—even if incidental—will not be ignored. This can be through assistance to civilians after they’ve been harmed, or by what we call “making amends.”
In war, we believe that civilians with losses like deaths, injuries, and property damages deserve amends from the warring party that caused the harm. At its core, making amends to civilians suffering conflict losses is a gesture of respect to victims. Amends can take a variety of forms, depending on what is culturally appropriate, including public apologies, monetary payments, livelihood assistance programs, and other offerings depending on victims’ needs and preferences.
Making amends is a new concept in modern warfare and we’re seeing the practice take root in conflict zones by governments as well as military organizations such as NATO and AMISOM. This is welcome progress, as for too long the international community dismissed incidental civilian harm as an acceptable consequence of armed conflict, leaving victims to pick up the pieces of lost lives and livelihoods.
We also press governments to assist civilians post-harm through the creation of livelihood assistance and rehabilitation programs to help civilians suffering conflict losses to recover and rebuild their war-torn lives.
photo courtesy of Chris Hondros
Backgrounder: Civilian Harm Tracking
Guiding Principles for Making Amends
Frequently Asked Questions on Amends
Legal Foundations for "Making Amends" to Civilians Harmed by Armed Conflict
February 2012 | by International Human Rights Clinic, Harvard Law School