Pentagon report 'fails to acknowledge true extent of civilian casualties abroad'

By Agencies
May 8, 2020

On 6 May 2020, the Trump administration made public an unclassified version of a Congressionally-mandated report on the number of civilians it believes it killed in military operations abroad. The report estimates that 132 civilians were killed and 91 were injured in 2019 as a result of US military operations in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia.

In response, Hina Shamsi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Security Project said: “Years into America’s unending conflicts, the Trump administration is again undercounting the actual number of civilians killed or injured overseas. Compared to credible independent media accounts and rights groups’ investigations, it is clear that the Pentagon’s investigations are still woefully inadequate. Continuing secrecy about the costs and consequences of Trump’s killing policies prevents meaningful public oversight and accountability for wrongful deaths and perpetual war-based policies. Civilian victims, their families, and the American public deserve more than this.”

Daphne Eviatar, Director of the Security with the Human Rights Programme at Amnesty International USA, said: “The Department of Defence’s submission of this year’s report marks some progress in terms of transparency of US military operations. The content of the report, however, suggests that the Pentagon is still undercounting civilian casualties. It still fails to acknowledge hundreds of civilian casualties that Amnesty’s researchers investigated on the ground in Raqqa, Syria, and assessed from the US-led military operation in 2017.

“The Defence Department appears to have dismissed out of hand many of the civilian deaths and injuries we have documented in the past two years in Somalia, simply assessing them as ‘not credible’ despite our extensive testimonial evidence and expert analysis of images and video from strike sites, satellite imagery, and weapons identification.

“If the US is going to engage in lethal operations abroad, then it must develop a reliable means for investigating and reporting on who it has killed and injured in the process. The difficult work of credibly investigating the aftermath of operations is the responsibility of the governments who engage in lethal actions. It cannot be left to non-governmental organisations like Amnesty International, which has already provided a vast amount of information on which the Defence Department has so far failed to act.

“These reports can be a crucial accountability mechanism for thousands of families around the world waiting for justice, and a tool for transparency for everyone concerned about what is being carried out by the United States military in its operations every year. But for these reports to meaningfully contribute to the accountability process, they must contain concrete information based on thorough investigations, and must lead to reparations for the families of the victims. So far, that’s not happening.”

* American Civil Liberties Union https://www.aclu.org/

* Amnesty International https://www.amnesty.org.uk/


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