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Armed Conflict: Casualties

Question for Ministry of Defence

UIN 158137, tabled on 27 June 2018

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what steps his Department has taken to implement the recommendations of Sir John Chilcot's Report of the Iraq Inquiry, published on 6 July 2016, on future (a) recording and (b) reporting of civilian casualties caused by UK military action; and if he will make a statement.

Answered on

4 July 2018

The Ministry of Defence (MOD) takes very seriously the conclusions set out at paragraphs 277 ("The Inquiry considers 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") and 280 ("The Government should be ready to work with others, in particular Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and academic institutions, to develop such assessments and estimates over time") of Section 17 of the Iraq Inquiry (Chilcot) Report. Since the publication of the Report, officials have been in discussion with several NGOs concerning these conclusions. In response to this dialogue, the Department now releases statistics relating to the number of civilians admitted to UK military field hospitals. In addition, the MOD publication 'The Good Operation' (https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-good-operation), a handbook for those involved in operational policy and its implementation published in January 2018, highlights paragraph 277 of Section 17 (on page 8); invites policy-makers to assess the likely impact of an operation on the populace, including factors such as protection of non-combatants (page 23); and draws attention to the legal dimension of operational planning, including targeting and rules of engagement, on pages 33-35. These considerations are a central part of our planning and campaign assessment processes. We are keen to continue the dialogue with NGOs over the coming period to ensure that, as far as practicably possible, we continue to address the conclusions set out in paragraphs 277 and 280 of Section 17.

The current official statistics on operational casualties are available at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/uk-armed-forces-and-uk-civilian-operational-casualty-and-fatality-statistics

The operations on which we are currently reporting (KIPION, SHADER and TORAL) do not incorporate a deployed field hospital, hence no civilian casualty data are currently being reported regarding admissions to deployed UK military medical facilities. We intend to start reporting on numbers of casualties for Op TRENTON (South Sudan) as a UK field hospital is deployed, subject to further work on data compliance issues.

We have previously published civilian numbers being treated in a UK field hospital as part of reporting for Op GRITROCK in Sierra Leone, at: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/uk-armed-forces-and-uk-civilian-operational-casualty-and-fatality-statistics-financial-year-20142015

It is also important to stress that we do everything we can to minimise the risk to civilians from UK military action, not least through the professionalism of our personnel. Reports of civilian casualties are taken very seriously and will continue to be. We already have in place a process by which we identify any evidence that a civilian casualty may inadvertently have occurred. Any such evidence is assessed and if it is credible, it is passed to the relevant authorities for investigation. The results are published where any investigation shows that the UK has been responsible.

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