UK showed no real interest in monitoring civilian casualties: Iraq Body Count on Chilcot Iraq Inquiry Report

First published 15th Jul 2016

The 7th of July 2016 saw the publication in London of the much-awaited Chilcot Iraq Inquiry Report which set out to “identify lessons that could be learned from the Iraq conflict” for the UK government.

CRN member Iraq Body Count (IBC), which has systematically recorded up to 179,327 civilian deaths from when the invasion was launched in 2003 to the present day (07/07/2016), has published its response to the report, which you can read in full here

The main treatment of casualties in the Chilcot report comes in Section 17 in  a 50-page chapter entitled “Civilian Casualties”.

One of the most important conclusions of the report for the wider field of casualty recording is the recognition that

a Government has a responsibility to make every reasonable effort to identify and understand the likely and actual effects of its military actions on civilians. (Section 17, para 277)

This statement is directly in line with the Every Casualty Campaign’s call and the movement which has grown from it.

Chilcot also reveals for the first time the existence of a trial process to monitor and report on civilian casualties put in place by the UK government in November 2004, which was however abandoned before it could be implemented, presumably because it failed to deliver the desired political result, which was “to sustain domestic support for operations in Iraq” rather than to answer the legitimate questions that victims and their families might reasonably expect to see addressed. 

In light of this Report, IBC urges the Government to now work with all relevant interested parties, including most crucially Iraqis themselves, to arrive at a full and properly respectful public record of the casualties from the invasion to the present day. 

The Chilcot Report notes that Britain is a signatory and core group member of the Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence, whose members commit to “supporting initiatives to measure the human, social and economic costs of armed violence”.  Helping establish a proper casualty record for Iraq and the other wars it has fought since would be to live up to the active public role that the Geneva Declaration commits Britain to playing.

Only when states and other parties to conflict take the responsibility to ensure that every casualty of armed conflict is “promptly recorded, correctly identified and publicly acknowledge” can the fullest lessons be learned from the consequences of war, and the repeating of life-destroying mistakes avoided.