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2020 | U.S. Department of Defense Annual Report on Civilian Casualties In Connection with United States Military Operations in 2019

United States (U.S.) legislation requires the Defence Department (DoD) to report annually on civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military operations, including ex gratia payments made or other assistance provided to the civilian or the family of the civilian.

This unclassified DoD report released to Congress, assesses that 132 civilians were killed and 91 were injured during 2019 as a result of the use of U.S. military weapons in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia. The report did not identify any civilian casualties resulting from U.S. military operations in Yemen or Libya. The report does not consider any strikes carried out by the CIA, or the civilian impact of U.S.-supported military operations like those of the Saudi/ United Arab Emirates-led coalition.

Undercounting CIVCAS in Yemen

The report states it had “no credible reports of civilian casualties” in Yemen. However, the DoD’s findings are contrary to the findings of a Yemen-based human rights organization that has been documenting the impact of U.S. drone strikes in Yemen since 2013. Moreover, locals state that they do not know what door to knock on to report their harm. Finally, even if a civilian or NGO could report, the criteria by which the department evaluates the “credibility” of external CIVCAS reports presents an unnecessarily high threshold of evidence to establish that an external report is “credible.”

Ex gratia payments

The report sets forth that for 2020, the U.S. government allocated max. USD 3,000,000 for ex gratia payments. These payments help to express condolences, sympathy or goodwill, and are used to support mission objectives. The DoD writes that it made 611 ex gratia payments in 2019 in response to property damage, personal injury or death even though ‘such actions are not required by law, not an admission of wrongdoing, and not for the purpose of compensating the victim or the victim’s family for their loss’. For the DoD’s report to Congress on these 611 payments, klick here.