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. (As prepared).

Thank you, COL Allen, for inviting me to participate in this conference and to talk about civilian harm mitigation.

My organization has worked over the past decade on these issues in various conflicts from Iraq and Afghanistan, to Somalia and Pakistan, and more recently in Syria. We worked with the US military initially in Iraq, and more closely in Afghanistan where I met COL Allen when he was legal advisor to COMISAF, and where we also worked with BG Rich Gross—now Legal Counsel to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. And more recently, it’s been a pleasure to work with COL Hudson and LTC Larchick on US operations in Iraq and Syria.

Navigating civilian-military relations can be challenging, but CIVIC’s work is made easier when we can have frank discussions about how to reduce civilian harm in complex military theaters and have receptivity to our recommendations. So thank you for your leadership and commitment on these issues.

The Laws of Armed Conflict (LOAC) impose legal obligations on parties to a conflict to reduce human suffering during war. Yet civilians still suffer. CIVIC works to encourage warring parties to adopt a set of tools, policies, and practices that go above and beyond what is legally required by LOAC, thus raising the level of protection afforded to civilians before, during, and after conflict. Where prevention fails we strongly believe that harm must be addressed through making of amends or other post harm assistance policies. We call this work “civilian harm mitigation.”

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Notes to editors:

Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)’s mission is to improve protection for civilians caught in conflicts around the world. We call on and advise international organizations, governments, militaries, and armed non-state actors to adopt and implement policies to prevent civilian harm. When civilians are harmed we advocate for the provision of amends and post-harm assistance. We bring the voices of civilians themselves to those making decisions affecting their lives.

For more information, contact Christopher Allbritton at +1 (917) 310-4785 or chris@civiliansinconflict.org.

Image courtesy of Kate Raley