Over 526,000 people die violent deaths annually. The numbers of the injured often go uncounted, but are undeniably far higher.
What happens to the memory of these casualties? Will their names, and the circumstances of their death, be documented and recognised? AOAV and the Every Casualty Campaign think they must be. We think that every casualty of armed violence must be promptly recorded, correctly identified, and publicly acknowledged.
To ensure that this happens, in April 2014 AOAV has published a report looking at the benefits and challenges of existing casualty recording practices. This new policy paper goes in-depth into casualty recording practices helping to prevent and reduce violence.
Beyond the moral and existing legal imperatives to record casualties of armed violence, this paper shows how data on the victims has been pivotal in informing international processes that have led to the banning of landmines and cluster munitions. Similarly, it highlights how this practice is being used more recently to build evidence on the horrific impacts of explosive weapons in populated areas.
Records of casualties of armed violence can expose military practices that result in high civilian costs, and provoke changes in such strategies. The changes at checkpoints and in directives concerning air strikes in Afghanistan are just two examples covered by this paper.
The gathering of information on casualties of armed violence helps focus scarce resources to support those most affected. The Cure Violence project in the United States shows how efficiently this can be done.
After a conflict is over, casualty recording is used to strengthen accountability and thereby prevent future violence. This can lead to prominent legal processes against war criminals such as Slobodan Milošević in the Balkans and more recently Efraín Ríos Montt in Guatemala.
Whilst evidence has established how casualty recording can be beneficiary to address violence and conflict, casualty records are, more often than not, absent or incomplete.
AOAV believes that the United Nations and all governments must change that. Casualties need to be recorded, and documentation of the effects of hostilities on civilians must be enhanced.
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