Post-Harm Publications


Backgrounder: Civilian Harm Tracking  |  August 2013

Guiding Principles for Making Amends  |  June 2013

Frequently Asked Questions on Amends  |  June 2013

Legal Foundations for "Making Amends" to Civilians Harmed by Armed Conflict  |  February 2012


Reports & Briefs

Operationalizing Protection of Civilians in NATO Operations
30 November 2015  |  Journal Article

Though NATO and other military forces increasingly recognize protection of civilians as a key objective in their operations, implementation remains challenging. This article in Stability Journal offers practical suggestions on how civilian protection can be effectively addressed before, during and after military operations.

Within and Beyond the Gates: The Protection of Civilians by the UN Mission in South Sudan
07 October 2015  |  Research Report

CIVIC examines the mission’s successes and challenges in proactively protecting civilians from harm during the last 20 months of armed conflict in South Sudan. The report is based on field research in South Sudan in August 2015, including more than 80 interviews with civilians affected by the conflict, UN representatives, government and military officials, representatives of international humanitarian organizations, and local civil society leaders. As UNMISS’s mandate is being renewed, Center for Civilians in Conflict calls on the UN Security Council to maintain the protection of civilians as the mission’s core priority and to ensure the mission has the support needed to respond more robustly in conflict areas.

"When We Can’t See the Enemy, Civilians Become the Enemy": Living Through Nigeria’s Six-Year Insurgency
07 October 2015  |  Research Report

This report explores the experiences of civilians and armed actors living through the conflict in northeastern Nigeria. The ultimate goal is to better understand the gaps in protection from all sides, how civilians perceive security actors, and what communities expect from those who are supposed to protect them from harm. With this understanding, we analyze the structural impediments to protecting civilians, and propose practical—and locally informed—solutions to improve civilian protection and response to the harm caused by all armed actors in this conflict. 

Acknowledge, Amend, Assist: Addressing Civilian Harm Caused by Armed Conflict and Armed Violence
30 April 2015  |  Journal Article

CIVIC discusses the concepts of civilian harm tracking and amends in two articles in Harvard Law School Human Rights Program and Action on Armed Violence's publication "Acknowledge, Amend, Assist: Addressing Civilian Harm Caused by Armed Conflict and Armed Violence."

Ex-gratia Payments in Afghanistan: A Case for Standing Policy for the US Military
12 May 2015  |  Issue Brief
In this issue brief CIVIC analyzes detailed information on ex-gratia payments awarded by the US military in Afghanistan from October 2005 to September 2014. The paper concludes that the ad hoc nature of the monetary payment policy in Afghanistan is an example of the need to create a standing policy for current and future theatres.

Fending for Ourselves: The Civilian Impact of Mali’s Three-Year Conflict
11 May 2015  |  Research Report

This report presents a locally-informed narrative of the civilian impact of the ongoing conflict in northern Mali and puts forward policy recommendations to help address the desires and expectations that civilians have regarding security and protection issues. A heightened and more nuanced understanding of civilian perspectives will allow all concerned parties to improve protection measures while properly mitigating and responding to incidental harm that results from their operations in the North.

Prioritizing Protection of Civilians in Peacekeeping in the Central African Republic
16 September 2014  |  Journal Article

CIVIC’s Marla Keenan and Stimson Center’s Alison Giffen discuss protection as a top priority for the UN force, MINUSCA, in Humanitarian Exchange.

Monetary Payments for Civilian Harm in International and National Practice
02 October 2013  |  Research Report
How much is a life worth? While it is impossible to put a price on life, there is an important conversation to be had around the various levels of payment offered to victims of violence in response to their losses. This report maps various programs and their implementation in settings of armed conflict and in response to serious crimes and terrorist attacks. The report’s aim is not to “set a price” on civilian losses, but rather to evaluate the consistency of current practice in providing monetary payments—both the amounts and the methodology used by the entity offering the payment. This report is the product of collaboration between the Amsterdam International Law Clinic at the University of Amsterdam and Center for Civilians in Conflict in Washington DC.

Assistance Overdue: Ongoing Needs of Civilian Victims of Nepal’s Armed Conflict
26 September 2013  |  Research Report
Seven years after the end of Nepal's armed conflict, civilian victims are still struggling in the absence of effective help from the government, according to a report released  by Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC), in partnership with Center for Civilians in Conflict. A government relief program, set to end in 2014, has failed to deliver sufficient services and support. This report assesses—based on victims’ needs and expectations—the government’s actions to date and its future plans for responding to civilian harm. It finds that Nepal’s response to the armed conflict and civilian harm has been inadequate. The Harvard Law School International Human Rights Clinic (IHRC) and the Center for Civilians in Conflict call on the Nepali government and international community to hold further, meaningful consultations with victims and civil society, and to be guided by their perspectives in developing a more comprehensive and enduring solution.

Syria: Civilian Harm and Assistance
16 September 2013  |  Policy Brief

The horror of the Syrian conflict is reflected in the accounts we heard from its people. The consequences of the conflict—both short and long term—are devastating for Syrians trying to cope with loss of breadwinners, their homes, loss of livelihood, and disruption of access to education and healthcare. Now, Syrians have to radically change their assumptions about how they will live and provide for themselves and their families. They are and will be in desperate need of assistance to live their lives with dignity. Given the persisting conflict, with no end in sight, it is challenging to plan for assisting civilians who’ve been harmed. But it’s incumbent upon the international community to plan for both short and long-term help as Syria’s future very much depends on the strength of it people. Planning to assist Syrians needs to be considered now in order for it to be effective when the Syrian people are in a position to begin rebuilding their lives. This brief is intended to get policymakers, donor governments, and equipped civil society to begin thinking through what they can do to help individual Syrians and their families post-harm.

Center Input for OCHA on UNAMA Renewal
01 February 2012  |  Policy Brief

Security is deteriorating in Afghanistan, especially in the South and East of the country.  In its annual report, the Afghan NGO Safety Office (ANSO) reported a 14% increase in violent incidents in 2011 compared to 2010.  While UNAMA has not yet released their end of year report, anecdotal evidence suggests overall civilian casualties also increased in 2011.  Indeed, the consensus among humanitarian aid agencies and human rights organizations is that civilians are more at risk than at any other time since 2001.

Civilian Harm in Somalia: Creating an Appropriate Response  
10 November 2011  |  Research Report
This report details the response Somalis want to see when civilians are harmed in conflict. It sets out how traditional dispute resolution mechanisms can inform such responses and makes technical recommendations. No apology or amount of compensation can give back what Somali war victims and their families have lost. But our findings clearly show that an attempt to respond to their suffering in this conflict can mitigate some of the consequences and return a sense of dignity to the victims and their communities.

Addressing Civilian Harm in Afghanistan: Policies and Practices of International Forces
15 June 2010  |  Policy Brief

Afghan civilians deserve amends from warring parties for deaths, injuries, and property losses—that is, some form of recognition and monetary compensation. CIVIC's research into the experiences of International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops and Afghan civilians demonstrates that when international military forces provide payment, especially combined with an apology for harm, civilian hostility toward international forces decreases. However, the effectiveness of these payments has been limited by the lack of uniform policies across ISAF nations, limited information gathering about civilian harm generally, and—in many cases—insensitive requirements that civilians suffering losses take the initiative to file claims. This report describes the policies and practices of major ISAF Troop Contributing Nations. It finds that soldiers as well as civilians view amends for harm favorably. The process of investigation, negotiation of payment, and offers of formal compensation are opportunities to strengthen relationships with local leaders and communities, to explain what happened, and acknowledge loss.

US Military Compensation to Civilians in Armed Conflict
01 May 2010  |  White Paper

This report discusses the history of US military claims for civilian harm and reviews existing efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan. CIVIC’s research for this briefing pape was conducted in Washington, Afghanistan, and Iraq from 2006–2010. In the absence of a standing claims system to address civilian harm occurring as a result of combat operations, the current US effort to provide “condolences” was pieced together in 2003 in Iraq and in 2005 in Afghanistan. There have been improvements over the years in both theaters, but the overall effort remains ad hoc and inadequate, often increasing resentment among the local population rather than fostering goodwill. 

Losing the People: The Costs and Consequences of Civilian Suffering in Afghanistan
18 February 2009  |  Research Report

When harm occurs, the imperative must be easing civilian suffering and making amends for losses. This report looks closely at the existing compensation and victim assistance mechanisms to see what works and what does not. Center for Civilians in Conflict interviewed 143 civilians affected by the conflict to document the harm they experienced and find out which, if any, of the existing compensation and victim assistance mechanisms met their needs and expectations. Above all, CIVIC’s research shows that compensation and victim assistance is both possible and practical, despite statements from government and military officials to the contrary.

Compensating Civilian Casualties: “I am Sorry for Your Loss and I Wish you Well in a Free Iraq”
30 May 2009  |  Joint Briefing Paper

This report examines 506 claims filed by Afghan and Iraqi civilians against the US military for monetary aid for harm allegedly caused by US forces. Tens of thousands of such claims have been filed in Afghanistan and Iraq; however, the 506 claims researched for this report represent the only files released by the US government to date. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) received these documents pursuant to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The US Foreign Claims Act (FCA) authorizes compensation awards to foreign nationals for death, injury, and damage to property from “noncombat activity or a negligent or wrongful act or omission” caused by US service members. The condolence payment program, separately, is part of the Commander’s Emergency Response Program fund and authorizes commanders to provide symbolic “gifts” for death, injury, or battle damage caused during US military combat operations. Both programs are ex gratia (an “act of grace”), meaning no law requires an award or payment. Yet, the American public, the Iraqi and Afghan people, and major segments of the US military do not adequately understand these programs. This report is by Jonathan Tracy, J.D., LL.M. Prepared for the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy and the Center for Civilians in Conflict in 2008.

US Military Claims System for Civilians 
30 April 2008  |  White Paper

In April 2007, the US military released the first-ever documents detailing individual claims for civilian casualties in Iraq and Afghanistan.  While the US military attempts to minimize civilian casualties, loss of innocent life is a reality in conflict.  Knowing civilians suffer death, injury and property loss during armed conflicts – whether in combat or merely by the presence of military forces – the question arises:  What should, or must, the US military do to address the damage caused by military operations to civilians?

Evaluating the Civilian-Use Model of Wartime Property Damage 
16 July 2006  |  Journal Article

A response to Brilmayer and Chepiga by Sarah Holewinski & Erica Gaston in Harvard International Law Journal.


Testimony & Advocacy

CIVIC Remarks at SOCOM Legal Conference
27 February 2015  |  Speech
Sahr Muhammedally, Senior Program Manager MENA and South Asia at CIVIC, spoke at the United States Special Operations Command (SOCOM) Legal Conference on February 25, 2015.

Afghanistan: Return to Hope
05 Sept 2014  |  Video Interview
CIVIC discusses civilian harm mitigation lessons learned in "Return to Hope” — NATO’s virtual overview of its mission in Afghanistan.

Practices to Meet and Address the Emerging Challenges of Protecting Civilians in Peace Operations
27 May 2014  |  Floor Statement
Floor Statement from Marla Keenan at panel hosted by the International Peace Institute, together with the governments of Austria and Norway.

Reclaiming the Protection of Civilians Under International Humanitarian Law
23 May 2013  |  Floor Statement

Floor Statement from Sarah Holewinski at panel hosted by the Government of Norway.

The Constitutional and Counterterrorism Implications of Targeted Killing
30 April 2013  |  Testimony

Written Testimony Submitted to the Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights.

Center Testimony on Civilian Harm to DOD Defense Legal Policy Board
07 November 2012  |  Testimony

Submitted testimony of Sarah Holewinski, Executive Director, Center for Civilians in Conflict to the US Department of Defense, Defense Legal Policy Board

Floor Statement at the Informal UN Debate Responsibility While Protecting
21 February 2012  |  Floor Statement 

Statement by CIVIC at the Informal UN Debate on Responsibility While Protecting, hosted by the Mission of Brazil

Making Amends to Civilians as a Crucial Measure in the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict
30 October 2009  |  Joint Letter

This letter urgers members of the UN Security Council to proclaim in its statement at the upcoming Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Open Debate that parties to armed conflict should make amends and support any similar language proposed in the draft resolution.

CIVIC Testimony on Victims’ Assistance in Afghanistan, State and Foreign Operations Hearing
01 April 2009  |  Testimony

Submitted Testimony of Erica Gaston, Center field researcher in Afghanistan, to US Senate Committee on Appropriations on the need for recognition, compensation, and other assistance in Afghanistan.

Testimony on Foreign Claims Act, Condolence Payments for State and Foreign Operations Hearing
01 April 2009  |  Testimony
Submitted testimony of Jonathan Tracy, former Center military legal advisor, to US Senate Committee on Appropriations on the history of the Foreign Claims Act and Condolence Payments and ways forward.



Lessons From Kunduz: The Next Steps in Preventing Civilian Casualties
14 October 2015  
|  Newsweek  |  Federico Borello & Christina Asquith  |  Opinion

What Civilians Themselves Say about Targeting and their Participation in Conflict
21 May 2015
  |  Just Security  |  Nicolette Boehland  |  Guest Post

Saudi Arabia Must Prioritize Civilian Protection in its Yemen Operations
26 April 2015
  |  Defense One  |  Sahr Muhammedally  |  Guest Post

No Safe Place in Gaza  
19 August 2014
 |  Just Security  |  Nicolette Boehland  |  Guest Post

Don't Forget the Civilians in the Fight Against ISIS
16 July 2014
 |  Atlantic Council  |  Sahr Muhammedally  |  Guest Post

Civilian War Victims Receive Recognition in US Law
03 April 2014
 |  Just Security  |  Sahr Muhammedally  |  Guest Post 

Afghan Forces Need to Protect Civilians Too
30 January 2014
  |  Foreign Policy  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Opinion

Aid for Drone Victims
28 November 2013  |  New York Times  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  LTE

Five Ways Obama Can Fix Drones Right Now
06 November 2013
  |  Defense One  | Sarah Holewinski & Dr. Larry Lewis  |  Guest Post

Civilians can Benefit When the Military Learns From its Mistakes
29 October 2013 
 |  Sarah Holewinsky  |  Washington Post  |  LTE

Marla Ruzicka’s Heroism
19 September 2013
  |  The Nation  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Guest Article

What Civilian Casualties? Afghan Forces' Implausible Denials
12 March 2013
  |  Foreign Policy  |  Trevor Keck  |  Opinion

Bring Drones out of the Shadows
7 February 2013
 |  CNN Opinion  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Opinion

Do Less Harm: Protecting and Compensating Civilians in War
4 January 2013
 |  Foreign Affairs  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Guest Article

Not Even the White House Knows the Drones' Body Count
29 September 2012
 |  Wired  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Guest Author

As Pentagon Reshapes Fighting Force, Civilian Casualties Need to be Considered
12 September 2012
 |  The Hill  |  Sarah Holewinski and Dr. Larry Lewis  |  Opinion

Safeguarding Libyan Civilians
12 July 2012
 |  Washington Post  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  LTE

Post-Conflict Potter
11 August 2011
 |  Foreign Policy  |  Sarah Holewinski, Tom Malinowski, and Tammy Schultz  |  Guest Article

Lessons from 'Ghanzi Province'
10 November 2007
 |  Washington Post  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Opinion

Fixing the Collateral Damage
7 March 2007
 |  New York Times  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Opinion

NATO Must Follow US Lead in Helping Afghan Civilians
26 December 2006
 |  USA Today  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Opinion

The True Cost of War
14 April 2006
 |  Washington Post  |  Sarah Holewinski  |  Opinion


Press Releases

US Assistance to Iraq: Recommendations on Civilian Protection  |  26 June 2013

Afghanistan: NATO Must Fully Respond to Alleged Civilian Harm from Airstrike Near Jalalabad  |  08 October 2013

Nepali War Victims Need Long-Term, Expanded Assistance  |  14 September 2013

Syrian Transition Roadmap Must Include Sustainable Assistance to War Victims  |  14 August 2013

Afghan Government Must Strengthen Response to Civilian Harm  |  27 January 2013

After Libya Operation: Focus on Civilians not Political Maneuvering  |  06 January 2012

Somali Civilians Say They Want Recognition for Conflict-Losses  |  10 November 2011

Civilian Casualties in Yemen, Somalia, and Libya Show Better Military Planning Needed  |  07 September 2011

PAKISTAN: Compensation Promised to Civilian Drone Victims  |  28 March 2011

Families of Two Civilians Killed Deserve Amends for Losses  |  25 March 2011

Civilian Drone Victims Deserve to be Counted and Compensated  |  24 March 2011



In Remembrance of Our Founder  |  16 April 2015

Civilian Harm Persists Despite Robust UN Mandate in Eastern DRC  |  21 January 2015

Infographics: Monetary Payments for Civilian Harm  |  02 April 2013

Assisting Syrian War Victims  |  14 August 2013

Help for Civilians Harmed in America's Drone Wars  |  26 April 2013

Drones: An Outlier in a Transparent Presidency  |  16 January 2013

Stop Playing the Blame Game: Ex Gratia Payments in the Fog of War  |  28 February 2012

Reflections on a Partnership: Advancing Assistance for Civilian Victims of War  |  17 February 2012

Responding to Harm in Somalia  |  10 November 2011

GUEST BLOG: Afghanistan: A Soldier’s Perspective  |  25 May 2011

Pakistani Politicians Agree: Make Amends to Victims of Conflict  |  02 April 2011

PAKISTAN: Job Wanted: Nine-Year-Old Seeks Full Time Employment to Support Family  |  28 July 2010 

IRAQ: On the Road to Recovery By Way Of Amends  |  05 May 2010