Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Come clean on Middle East air strikes: HRW

Human Rights Watch has demanded the Defence department come clean on past air strikes in Iraq and Syria and the extent of civilian casualties.
The department has begun a new attempt at transparency making fortnightly reports available on its website.
The day before the federal budget in early May, it's first report carried a brief descriptions of seven strikes in Mosul, Iraq, between April 18-30, but did not specifically mention any civilian casualties.
The second report was due to be released on Monday.
Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Elaine Pearson said the reports were a good first step and urged the department to provide backdated reports from the past two and a half years.
She called on Defence Minister Marise Payne to detail any past investigations carried out into civilian casualties and the outcomes.
"We urge you to immediately release details on civilian casualties caused by Australian air strikes, and if you are not collecting such information, to start doing so without delay," she said in a letter to the minister.
Ms Pearson said reliance on video assessments taken from the air wouldn't give the full picture of casualties, especially in densely populated areas.
"The government should actively seek this information and not wait for it to be publicly reported before beginning an investigation," she said.
Documents released under freedom of information in March said the federal government did not collect "authoritative" data on the enemy or civilian casualties.
Ms Pearson said the government should also collaborate with Airwars, a non-government group monitoring air strikes and civilian deaths in the Middle East.
It estimates 3530 civilians have been killed in coalition air strikes.
The US-led coalition acknowledges an estimated 352 civilian deaths.
Airwars last year rated Australia one of the least transparent members of the international military coalition.
A spokesman for Senator Payne said Defence would disclose allegations of civilian casualties if they were made but ruled out issuing backdated reports.
The US is the only member of the coalition against Islamic State militants that has admitted to causing civilian casualties.

Read more at http://www.9news.com.au/national/2017/05/22/13/45/come-clean-on-middle-east-air-strikes#dFCXhQc9AAZEhVkw.99

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