On 20 June, the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Explosive Threats presented the findings of its inquiry into the threat posed to civilians by explosive violence. The inquiry, launched in May, requested evidence shaped by four key questions: what was the main reason for a rise in civilian victims of explosive violence?; what challenges do state governments and agencies face in effectively monitoring the numbers of people affected by explosive violence?; what challenges do state governments and agencies face in coping with support for rising numbers of victims and those displaced by explosive violence?; and what are the most important changes that governments and agencies could make to their policies to better protect and support victims of explosive violence?
The APPG – within which AOAV acts as a steering group member – received detailed and varied evidence from sixteen national and international organisations including the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) and the Rt Hon. Mark Lancaster, Minister of State for the Armed Forces (submitting on behalf of the UK Ministry of Defence and Foreign and Commonwealth Office).
In its submission, AOAV described how an increase in civilian deaths was largely due to an increase in the use of air strikes, with 45% of all civilians harmed from such weapon systems last year. Civilians killed or injured by air strikes was almost 50% higher in 2017 than in 2016 –14,342 in 2017. Commenting on the discrepancy in figures recorded and published by, for example, AOAV and Airwars on the one hand, and CENTCOM on the other – on behalf of the Coalition’s Operation Inherent Resolve – AOAV posed three questions:
· Are militaries currently incapable of assessing whether civilians have been killed or injured by land or air attacks sanctioned by them?
· Are militaries unwilling to accurately assess whether civilians have been killed or injured by land or air attacks sanctioned by them?
· Are militaries unwilling to release complete data pertaining to civilian deaths or injuries caused by land or air attacks sanctioned by them?
As the Rt Hon. Mark Lancaster MP noted, although the RAF seeks to avoid civilian casualties when choosing strike zones, and that the UK is “rigorous in our overview of individual strikes”, the Armed Forces Minister ultimately conceded that, “Without large numbers of UK forces on the ground it is not possible to be certain that UK air strikes have not caused civilian fatalities”.
To read the findings and recommendations from the inquiry, please see here.
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