(Washington, DC) June 27, 2018 – In light of the current debate over the call for the United States government to release records on civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by interested parties, Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) Executive Director Federico Borello issued the following statement:

Acknowledging the death of civilians is the least costly, but one of the most important, ways to recognize the life and dignity of human beings in war. People who cannot escape war should not suffer the indignity of being entirely forgotten, nor have the loss of a loved one diminished from afar. There is no justifiable reason for withholding information about how the military reaches its conclusions about the fate of civilians, and many good reasons to find out if, how, and why civilians have died. If the US-led anti-ISIS coalition has information that serves to corroborate or dispute an allegation, it should release that information to the public, along with the specific details of the process it employed to evaluate the claims. In cases where the coalition cannot corroborate the information on the basis of internal and open source information, they must do more to investigate.

Dan Mahanty, CIVIC’s US Program Director, said:

Transparency does more than enhance the legitimacy of the anti-ISIS coalition – it ensures that civilians who have lost their lives or loved ones are recognized, and in some cases, have recourse to some form of relief. This isn’t about a military dispute with the press; it’s about the common objective of recognizing and accounting for the cost of war in human lives. The coalition cannot be confident in its assumptions about the presence of civilians in current strikes unless it has the most complete picture of what harm has been caused in the past. Releasing information about the credibility assessment process, and the documentation that clarifies how the coalition reaches its conclusions in each case would go great lengths to demonstrate a commitment to minimizing harm to civilians.

CIVIC calls on the US-led Anti-ISIS Coalition to:

  • Publicly disclose the standard operating procedures for civilian casualty assessment reports (CCARs), to include the criteria used to evaluate the credibility of reports of civilian casualties;
  • Disclose findings of credibility assessments, with appropriate concern for the privacy and security of civilians and outside sources of casualty reporting, from CCARs to include those that have been deemed credible, and those deemed non-credible;
  • Undertake an independent audit of civilian casualty claims and credibility assessments;
  • Expand the credibility assessment process to include outreach to witnesses, survivors, and local organizations that conduct civilian casualty recording and documentation;
  • Ensure each coalition member institutes a policy for acknowledging civilian casualties; and
  • Institute a coalition policy for offering ex gratia payments or other forms of amends in confirmed cases of civilian harm.

Background:

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Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)’s mission is to work with armed actors and civilians in conflict to develop and implement solutions to prevent, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm. Our vision is for a world where parties to armed conflicts recognize the dignity and rights of civilians, prevent civilian harm, protect civilians caught in conflict, and amend harm.

For more information, contact Piper Hendricks at phendricks@civiliansinconflict.org.