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Press Release: NGOs Call for Immediate and Full Reporting of Every Casualty in Libya

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21 April 2011

As rebel forces reportedly claim that 10,000 deaths have occurred and up to 55,000 have been injured since the start of the conflict in Libya, a group of NGOs have sent a call to those intervening in Libya to commit to properly monitoring and recording every casualty in the conflict.

This call is made in the belief that the accurate recording and reporting of all casualties will benefit accountability, any assessment of the international intervention, and humanitarian programming:

PRESS RELEASE – for immediate release


London, 21 April 2011. Fifteen humanitarian and human rights organisations have this week called on the states implementing the “no-fly zone” in Libya to commit to recording and reporting on civilian casualties in that country.

Their call comes in an open letter (text below) sent to all members of the UN Security Council, the Arab League and the African Union.

The international community’s intervention in Libya, mandated by UNSC 1973 and based on civilian protection, lacks any means by which such protection can be evaluated. In addition to the protection of civilians by ‘all necessary measures’, Resolution 1973 and 1970 mandate that those responsible for attacks on civilians ought to be held accountable, and that the Libyan authorities should comply with the international legal regime. Without a serious casualty reporting mechanism, it is hard to see how any of these mandates could be met to the satisfaction of all parties.

The co-signatories of the letter call for states to commit to: 

“immediate and comprehensive recording of all civilian casualties – whether children, women, or men, who have been killed injured, displaced, or who are missing. Monitoring should be done using all means presently available and be followed-up by full on-the-ground, incident-level investigations as soon as is feasible.” 

The signatories further urge that the mechanisms employed be transparent and open to public scrutiny, in particular to Libyans.

The letter will remain open for further signatories.



Please direct all UK inquiries for comment or further information to:

The Recording Casualties of Armed Conflict team, Oxford Research Group rcac@oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk
Tel:  +44 (0)207 549 0298

Please direct all US inquiries for comment or further information to:

Sarah Holewinski (sarah@civicworldwide.org),
Tel +1 202-558-6958

About Oxford Research Group

Oxford Research Group (ORG) is an independent London-based non-party organisation and think tank, which seeks to bring about positive change on issues of national and international security. Established in 1982, it is now considered to be one of the UK’s leading global security think tanks. ORG is a registered charity and uses a combination of innovative publications, expert roundtables, consultations, and engagement with opinion-formers and government to develop and promote sustainable global security strategies. www.oxfordresearchgroup.org.uk

Full text of the joint letter

To: The President of the UN Security Council
      UN Ambassadors of States within the Security Council
      Governments represented on the UN Security Council
      Governments of Coalition forces involved in Libya
      The Secretary General of the United Nations
      The Secretary General of the Arab League
      The Chairman of the African Union Commission


April 9th 2011

Casualty Recording in the Libya Conflict

We, the undersigned organisations, call on all parties to the armed conflict in Libya that, along with exercising every possible restraint in their conduct of military operations, they commit to recording and reporting on the civilian casualties of conflict from military operations in that country.

We define this as the immediate and comprehensive monitoring and documentation of all civilian casualties – whether children, women, or men who have been killed, injured, displaced, or who are missing. Monitoring should be done using all means presently available and be followed-up by full on-the-ground, incident-level investigations as soon as is feasible. We further urge that the mechanisms employed be transparent and open to public scrutiny, in particular to Libyans.

As a key element of humanitarian protection obligations, as well as the accountability that underpins good governance, whether by domestic parties to conflict or international state actors, it is of the utmost importance that civilian casualties are carefully and conscientiously monitored in any military action. This remains equally true when military intervention is proposed to protect civilians from further harm. Credible information on the nature and extent of civilian casualties is a crucial means by which to guide and to assess the efficacy of such interventions, including any operational precautions taken to minimise harm to civilians.

The UN Security Council Resolution 1973 on Libya passed on the 17th of March 2011 expresses “grave concern” at “heavy civilian casualties” in that country, asserts that its purpose is the protection of civilians, and demands a “complete end” to violence against them. Given its objectives and its implementation, SC Resolution 1973, by its own terms, requires a full and thorough investigation of its consequences for civilians.

Detailed monitoring and documentation of civilian casualties is also central to investigations into accountability as well as possible violations of international human rights and humanitarian law — which are also objectives in both SC Resolutions 1970 and 1973. This accountability applies to all parties to the armed conflict, including the Libyan armed forces under Muammar Gaddafi, Libyan opposition armed forces, and state armed forces acting under SC Resolution 1973.

A commitment to monitoring and fully documenting casualties would therefore be in accordance with, and of benefit to, the goals expressed in both SC Resolutions 1970 and 1973, as well as being consistent with the general principle of responsibility to protect. Specifically, it would safeguard:

Accounting for violence against civilians

‘Stressing the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under their control, on civilians...’ (SC Res. 1970)

Compliance with the international legal regime

‘Considering that the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity.’ (SC Res. 1970)

‘Demands that the Libyan authorities comply with their obligations under international law, including international humanitarian law, human rights and refugee law and take all measures to protect civilians…’ (SC Res.1973)

Accountability of Intervention

‘Authorizes Member States... to take all necessary measures… to protect civilians and civilian populated areas under threat of attack in the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya...’ (SC Res. 1973)


It should also be noted that the present lack of credible data on civilian casualties is compromising effective planning of a humanitarian response. Thus, thorough monitoring and documenting of casualties will serve the dual purpose of fulfilling those objectives built into SC Resolutions 1970 and 1973, whilst also informing humanitarian efforts when feasible.

The undersigned believe that the protection of civilians, which is an expressed goal of SC Resolution 1973, must be underpinned by a commitment from the parties to the conflict to reliable monitoring of the impact on civilians – monitoring which can only be achieved though the resolute and robust recording of casualties.


UNSC 1970:
UNSC 1973:



Seb Taylor
Director, Action On Armed Violence, UK

Ajmal Samadi
Director, Afghanistan Rights Monitor, Afghanistan

Sarah Holewinski
Executive Director, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict, USA

Jorge A. Restrepo
Director, Conflict Analysis Resource Center, Colombia

Igor Roginek
Human Losses Research Coordinator, Documenta, Croatia

Fredy Peccerelli
Executive Director, Guatemalan Forensic Anthropology Foundation, Guatemala

Dr Ghassan Elkahlout
Chief Executive Officer, Human Relief Foundation, UK

Ucha Nanuashvili
Executive Director, Human Rights Center, Georgia

Tom Malinowski
Washington Advocacy Director, Human Rights Watch, USA

Hamit Dardagan
Co-Founder, Iraq Body Count, UK

Phil ya Nangoloh
Executive Director, NamRights, Nambia

Dr Ian Davis
Director, NATO Watch, UK

Chris Langdon
Managing Director, Oxford Research Group, UK

Mirsad Tokača
President Managing Board, Research and Documentation Center, Bosnia and Herzegovina

Abdullahi Sheikh Abukar
Executive Director, Somali Human Rights Association, Somalia



To date one response has been received to the letter, from Alastair Burt, UK Minister for the Middle East at the Foreign Office.  The full text may be read here.


Picture credit: UK Ministry of Defence, RAF Personnel Take Part in a Briefing During Operation Ellamy, the UN Sanctioned No Fly Enforcement Over Libya, http://www.flickr.com/photos/defenceimages/5550714038/

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