Charter for the recognition of every casualty of armed violence

This charter is founded on the principle that no person should die unrecorded, and calls on states to uphold this principle for the victims of armed violence.

It is a universal charter in that it applies equally to every person and encompasses every party to armed violence. Its terms are few but far-reaching.

Armed violence causes many kinds of harm to people and communities, including some that are indirect, non-lethal or delayed. This charter is for those most immediate and direct victims whose violent deaths and identities are all too often forever lost to the public record. It therefore applies equally to all forms and conditions of armed violence where victims are commonly unrecorded, be it due to armed conflict, extensive lethal criminality, or any other breakdown in civil security.

The civil society organisations and concerned parties who endorse this charter call on states, in partnership with other actors, to recognise every casualty of armed violence by ensuring that all casualties are:

  • promptly recorded
  • correctly identified
  • publicly acknowledged

By every casualty, we mean all men, women and children, whether civilian or combatant, directly killed in armed violence anywhere in the world. 

By promptly recorded, we mean immediately it is safe to do so.

By correctly identified, we mean that personal details such as their name, sex, and age be verifiably established.

And by publicly acknowledged, we mean that this information be made openly accessible to all, including the bereaved.

These tasks may be widely shared, but states bear particular responsibility for populations under their control or jurisdiction, or who are endangered by their actions. Information on deaths and the identity of the dead must be made public, after first informing bereaved families where possible. Only when there is a genuine risk of harm to the living should the implementation of these measures be delayed, but never indefinitely.

In fulfilling this call states and other actors should:

  • ensure that the information produced is adequate and accessible as a basis for addressing the rights and needs of victims
  • take all relevant actions at the national level
  • work with others to develop an international framework for casualty recording.

While accepting that we cannot erase the harm already done to the dead, their families and friends, we are convinced that much good will flow from this initiative, which will:

  • Relieve the common anguish of not knowing the fate of loved ones who are missing, presumed dead
  • Enable more timely, transparent, reliable and comprehensive monitoring of armed violence, including its impact on specific groups, than has ever been achieved before
  • Give a human face to the many nameless, hidden, often distant victims of armed violence
  • Provide essential information for all parties to take every possible step to protect civilians from armed violence, thereby encouraging them to do so
  • Uphold and advance the rights of victims of armed violence
  • Bring states and parties to armed violence into better compliance with the spirit as well as the letter of international humanitarian, human rights and refugee law
  • Support post-conflict recovery and reconciliation, which must always be grounded in truth

From the moment its demands begin to be implemented, this initiative will assert and strengthen the recognition of our common humanity across the globe. In doing so, it may move us closer to a world where armed violence is no longer the scourge it is today.