At least 64 children died between 2006 and 2014 as a result of British Army Special Forces operations in Afghanistan, four times the number officially acknowledged by London, according to responses from the UK Ministry of Defense. A request for access to information made by the charity “Action on Armed Violence” (AOAV), dedicated to a survey of the incidence and impact of global armed violence.
According to official records obtained by the organization, the deaths were in reference to airstrikes and infiltration against Taliban fighters, a figure the AOAV considers may be just the tip of an iceberg, as the NGO estimates the number of children killed may rise. Could be 135. Because in many cases the documents only describe the victims as sons and daughters, and age and circumstances are not always included.
The data contained in the defense responses stems from claims made by relatives of civilian victims submitted to the British state, of which only 25% received compensation, including the survivors of a family, a Western Coalition in Hawaii. During the attack 8 members were lost. A village in the southern Helmand province of Nava district in May 2009.
In this specific case, the claimant requested compensation for the death of his nephew, his nephew’s two wives and five of his children, a request that took 144 days to resolve by the British authorities and for which they paid him US$8,260.
In total, the Defense Ministry paid US$786,350 for the deaths of 289 Afghan civilians between 2006 and 2014. The AOAV has alleged that UK authorities have in many cases required claimants to submit photographs, birth certificates and support letters. Before financial compensation was awarded, and many were formally interviewed by British personnel to confirm that they had no links with the Taliban.
Even, in some cases, “affected people received more for damage to property or livestock than their relatives,” the AOAV said. For its part, in a statement, the Defense Ministry said that “the death of any civilian during a conflict is a tragedy, even more so if it involves children and family members.” Although it assured that its military would try to minimize harm to civilians, the agency acknowledged that “unfortunately this cannot be completely eliminated.”
AOAV director Ian Overton criticized the lack of transparency of the process set up by the British government, as NGO investigators have taken years to obtain the requested information regarding the so-called “collateral damage”. A criticism that has been repeatedly criticized by other human rights groups and charities in both the UK and the US.
British officials have so far acknowledged the death of a single civilian in an airstrike by the Royal Air Force during a bombing campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria.
In contrast, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin recently ordered a major change in the way the Pentagon investigates civilian casualties, an announcement that followed a US airstrike during its withdrawal from Kabul last year. , an incident in which ten civilians were killed.
The so-called Washington Civilian Harm Mitigation and Response Action Plan includes hiring more than 150 military personnel to improve information and data collection on such incidents, along with a focus on mitigation.
For its part, the British Defense Ministry said it was following the progress of the US review but committed to making no changes to the way it investigates or reports “collateral damage” caused by its uniformed officers.
“Of the 881 death claims filed with the Allied Operations Command, the majority were dismissed. Only a quarter of them received any compensation.
“War always leads to death and modern war will always bring civilian casualties, but not reporting such deaths, however, may be a source of grief and terror for the soldiers involved in the killings and no matter how many accidental deaths. … deaths, that would be a mistake. It is ignoring responsibilities,” Overton said.
“This report hopes to provide some details about the children killed in the war and in a way send a warning to future politicians in Westminster who may consider sending troops into the war,” the AOAV director said.
Responding to the findings, Ceasefire Executive Director Mark Latimer warned that “although military records show hundreds of serious cases of abuse of civilians in Afghanistan and Iraq, prosecutions against military service personnel from Britain are very rare.”
In response to the report published in London by the AOAV, the Ministry of Defense stated that “the United Kingdom Armed Forces acted with courage and professionalism in Afghanistan and we will always hold them to the highest standards” and that the Ministry of Defense Prosecution will remain open. Consideration of complaints when new evidence, intelligence or information emerges.