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Human Rights Watch Report: Civilian Casualties in Iraq [View All]

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Resistance Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Dec-24-03 08:52 AM
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Human Rights Watch Report: Civilian Casualties in Iraq
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Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq

Human Rights Watch

From the Summary and Recommendations page:

Human Rights Watch did not undertake this mission to determine the number of civilian casualties. Rather, it sought to understand how and why civilians were killed or injured in order to assess compliance with international humanitarian law, with a view to lessening the impact of war on civilians in the future.

The widespread use of cluster munitions, especially by U.S. and U.K. ground forces, caused at least hundreds of civilian casualties. Cluster munitions, which are large weapons containing dozens or hundreds of submunitions, endanger civilians because of their broad dispersal, or footprint, and the high number of submunitions that do not explode on impact. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that it used 10,782 cluster munitions,2 which could contain at least 1.8 million submunitions. The British used an additional seventy air-launched and 2,100 ground-launched cluster munitions, containing 113,190 submunitions. Although cluster munition strikes are particularly dangerous in populated areas, U.S. and U.K. ground forces repeatedly used these weapons in attacks on Iraqi positions in residential neighborhoods. Coalition air forces also caused civilian casualties by their use of cluster munitions, but to a much lesser degree.

Many of the civilian casualties from the air war occurred during U.S. attacks targeting senior Iraqi leaders. The United States used an unsound targeting methodology that relied on intercepts of satellite phones and inadequate corroborating intelligence. Thuraya satellite phones provide geo-coordinates that are accurate only to within a one-hundred-meter (328-foot) radius; therefore, the United States could not determine the origin of a call to a degree of accuracy greater than a 31,400-square-meter area. This flawed targeting strategy was compounded by a lack of effective assessment both prior to the attacks of the potential risks to civilians and after the attacks of their success and utility. All of the fifty acknowledged attacks targeting Iraqi leadership failed. While they did not kill a single targeted individual, the strikes killed and injured dozens of civilians. Iraqis who spoke to Human Rights Watch about the attacks it investigated repeatedly stated that they believed the intended targets were not even present at the time of the strikes.

Coalition air strikes on preplanned fixed targets apparently caused few civilian casualties, and U.S. and U.K. air forces generally avoided civilian infrastructure. Coalition forces did, however, identify certain targets as dual use, including electricity and media installations. Human Rights Watchs investigations found that air strikes on civilian power distribution facilities in al-Nasiriyya caused serious civilian suffering and that the legality of the attacks on media installations was questionable.

Most of the civilian casualties attributable to Coalition conduct in the ground war appear to have been the result of ground-launched cluster munitions. In some instances of direct combat, especially in Baghdad and al-Nasiriyya, problems with training on as well as dissemination and clarity of the rules of engagement (ROE) for U.S. ground forces may have contributed to loss of civilian life.
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