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The Mission to Count the Dead

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Every Casualty Programme
10 October 2013

The work of our Every Casualty Programme was featured in an article, written last month, for Spanish Newspaper, El País, by Nairara Gortazar. The article, La misión de contar muertos, which translates as 'the mission to count the dead', explores the work of casualty counting efforts in conflicts spanning the century, from the Spanish Civil War, Apartheid in South Africa, and recent efforts to document the deaths of civilians in Syria.

Citing the Spanish Civil War as an example of a conflict where unverified casualty figures continue to be manipulated for political gain over half a century later, Gortazar stresses that Syria must take a different path. In line with the central tenets of the Every Casualty Campaign (ECC), Gortazar writes that every effort must be made to create verifiable and transparent lists of casualties so that perpetrators can be held responsible and processes of reconciliation can take place.

While the publication of casualty data by the OCHCR in July demonstrates that both international and national actors are taking serious efforts to record casualty data, the members of the Every Casualty Campaign (ECC) continue to call on all parties involved in the conflict in Syria to ensure that every casualty of armed conflict is promptly recorded, correctly identified and publicly acknowledged.

The article notes the work the ECC - and particularly the members of the Oxford Research Group-facilitated International Practitioner Network (IPN) - are doing to ensure that every casualty of armed conflict is properly documented. It concludes by citing The Kosovo Memory Book

The Kosovo Memory Book is a monument to the victims of war crimes, published as a joint project by IPN members, Humanitarian Law Centre (HLC), Serbia, and Humanitarian Law Centre, Kosovo, as an example of best practice in casualty recording. 

The HLC have been working for years to compile an exact list of everyone who died as a result of the war within Kosovo’s borders and to give an account of how each person died. One volume has been published and three more are being prepared. The stories, which come from multiple sources are extraordinary and moving. For the first time in the history of the Balkans, figures are replaced with names. This will prevent manipulation, minimisation or exaggeration. Each story in the book corresponds to the life of the person it refers to. It urges people to remember people. 


The full text of the article can be accessed here.


The Every Casualty Campaign was originally founded by the Every Casualty Programme at the Oxford Research Group (ORG).


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