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Over 4,000 civilians killed in anti-ISIS bombing campaigns since January 2014

1 December 2015

30 November 2015 – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Over 4,000 civilians have been killed in the anti-ISIS bombing campaigns in Iraq and Syria during 2014 – 2015, according to a new report released today by the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights and Minority Rights Group International. The majority of these deaths, over 2,800, resulted from often indiscriminate bombardment by the Iraqi Security Forces. Hundreds of other civilians have been killed in anti-ISIS airstrikes carried out by members of the US-led international coalition, by the Syrian Air Force, and more recently by Russian forces, among others.
Civilian populations in Fallujah and other cities in western and northern Iraq, and in Raqqa, Aleppo and other areas of eastern and northern Syria, have been subjected to an unremitting and often indiscriminate bombardment, including the use of barrel bombs, that has left residential areas destroyed and caused extensive damage to schools, hospitals and mosques.

‘We are told that international military involvement in both Iraq and Syria is dedicated to support of the Iraqi government and the collective self-defence of Iraq – but members of the international coalition are turning a blind eye to the rapidly-increasing combined civilian death toll from Iraqi and coalition bombing,’ said Mark Lattimer, Ceasefire’s Director.

Intelligence from Iraqi security forces on the ground is used to inform the targeting of international coalition strikes, and military training, intelligence and equipment, including American F16 fighter aircraft, are supplied by members of the coalition to Iraqi forces. Under the circumstances, the report argues, there is a serious failure to take any collective responsibility for the unacceptable rates of civilian casualties.

Most of the primary information on civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria comes from local civilian sources, often activists working at great risk in extreme security environments. However, the prevention of future civilian casualties is being impeded by the failure of all parties to the conflict to acknowledge civilian deaths and investigate them transparently. In respect of the international coalition, failures in transparency represent a marked deterioration from recent practice in other conflicts.

‘Families have a right to know the fate of their relatives,’ added Mark Lattimer. ‘Coalition members had a policy in Afghanistan of acknowledging civilian deaths immediately and investigating them transparently, but that policy appears to have been abandoned for operations in Iraq and Syria. What have they got to hide?’

Recommendations from the report include:

  • All credible allegations of civilian casualties should be subject to an effective, prompt, thorough and impartial investigation, and the results made transparent, with a view to suppressing breaches of international humanitarian law and violations of human rights and securing reparation for victims and their families;
  • The international coalition should seek to ensure that both its individual members, and the Iraqi Security Forces it supports, prohibit attacks targeted at civilians or civilian objects, prohibit indiscriminate attacks and take all feasible precautions to avoid or at least minimise civilian death or injury;
  • Any decision to undertake further military action should put in place adequate mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the action according to its effect on the civilian population.

Notes to editors:

‘Civilian deaths in the anti-ISIS bombing campaigns 2014 – 2015’ is compiled from available monitoring information based on credible local civilian sources, local media reports, UN casualty statistics, Iraqi government sources and the work of UK-based monitoring groups. It complements other Ceasefire reports which have detailed outrages committed in Iraq by ISIS, as well as other armed actors, including mass extra-judicial executions, kidnappings, systematic torture, rape and sexual slavery.

For further information or to arrange interviews contact:
Shikha Dilawri or Mays Al-Juboori (London)
Tel: +44 20 7422 4209
Out of hours: +44 7970 651342
[email protected]
[email protected]

The report is available for download at

This report has been produced as part of the Ceasefire project, a multi-year programme supported by the European Union to implement a system of civilian-led monitoring of human rights abuses in Iraq, focusing in particular on the rights of vulnerable civilians including vulnerable women, internally-displaced persons (IDPs), stateless persons, and ethnic or religious minorities. Minority Rights Group International, charity no: 282305; Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights, charity no: 1160083.