On December 3rd 2018, Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) and Chatham House convened a roundtable discussion on the RAF and its recent deployment of airstrikes, to explore the Ministry of Defence (MOD)’s claims of near-zero civilian casualties and the importance that the protection of civilians plays in the RAF’s rules of engagement.
The roundtable arose in response to AOAV’s 2017 Explosive Violence Monitor report, which recorded a 257% rise in civilian deaths caused by US-led Coalition airstrikes in Iraq and Syria (totalling some 2,187 deaths). The roundtable sought to examine such harm and address ways to mitigate the impact on civilians from air-launched weaponry.
The event was organised as part of a two-year Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust-funded project, during which AOAV plans to examine the Royal Air Force’s (RAF) past and ongoing use of airstrikes over Iraq and Syria. This was the first of the three proposed roundtables. It involved over 30 people invited from UK Government, Parliament, civil society, academia and the UK military, and discussions were organised around four main sessions. Debate and discussion took place under the Chatham House Rule.
The opening session provided an overview of the airframes, munitions, targeting systems and tactics utilised by the RAF. Session 2 assessed what systems and procedures the RAF use to avoid causing civilian deaths and injuries, or damage to key civilian infrastructure. Session 3 scrutinised the methods deployed to ascertain, post-strike, whether civilians had been killed or injured as a result of an airstrike. Finally, Session 4 discussed how the RAF (and MOD) might further develop policies and protocols that could encourage greater transparency and foster deeper accountability when it comes to civilian harm from the UK’s military interventions overseas to Parliament and to the UK public as a whole.
To read the resulting summary report, please click here.
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