Amnesty International & AirWars Release Join Investigation Disclosing +1,600 Causalities by US Armed Forces In Raqqa, Syria Alone

(AI) – The US-led military Coalition must end almost two years of denial about the massive civilian death toll and destruction it unleashed in the Syrian city of Raqqa, Amnesty International and Airwars said today as they launched a new data project on the offensive to oust the armed group calling itself “Islamic State” (IS).

The interactive website, Rhetoric versus Reality: How the ‘most precise air campaign in history’ left Raqqa the most destroyed city in modern times, is the most comprehensive investigation into civilian deaths in a modern conflict. Collating almost two years of investigations, it gives a brutally vivid account of more than 1,600 civilian lives lost as a direct result of thousands of US, UK and French air strikes and tens of thousands of US artillery strikes in the Coalition’s military campaign in Raqqa from June to October 2017.

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Visit Interactive Website: https://raqqa.amnesty.org/

By the time the offensive began, the IS had ruled Raqqa for almost four years. It had perpetrated war crimes and crimes against humanity, torturing or killing anyone who dared oppose it. Amnesty International previously documented how IS used civilians as human shields, mined exit routes, set up checkpoints to restrict movement, and shot at those trying to flee.

Download/Read Full Report: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE2469452017ENGLISH.PDF

Coalition forces razed Raqqa, but they cannot erase the truth. Amnesty International and Airwars call upon the Coalition forces to end their denial about the shocking scale of civilian deaths and destruction caused by their offensive in Raqqa. The Coalition needs to fully investigate what went wrong at Raqqa and learn from those lessons, to prevent inflicting such tremendous suffering on civilians caught in future military operations,” said Chris Woods, Director of Airwars.

Cutting-edge research on the ground in Raqqa and from afar

Amnesty International and Airwars have collated and cross-referenced multiple data streams for this investigation. On four visits since the battle was still raging, Amnesty International researchers spent a total of around two months on the ground in Raqqa, carrying out site investigations at more than 200 strike locations and interviewing more than 400 witnesses and survivors.

Amnesty International’s innovative “Strike Trackers” project also identified when each of the more than 11,000 destroyed buildings in Raqqa was hit. More than 3,000 digital activists in 124 countries took part, analyzing a total of more than 2 million satellite image frames. The organization’s Digital Verification Corps, based at six universities around the world, analyzed and authenticated video footage captured during the battle.

View Strike Trackers Project: https://decoders.amnesty.org/projects/strike-tracker#decode-results

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Airwars and Amnesty International researchers analyzed open-source evidence, both in real-time and after the battle – including thousands of social media posts and other material – to build a database of more than 1,600 civilians reportedly killed in Coalition strikes. The organizations have gathered names for more than 1,000 of the victims; Amnesty International has directly verified 641 of those on the ground in Raqqa, and there are very strong multiple source reports for the rest.

Both organizations have frequently shared their findings with the US-led military Coalition and with the US, UK and French governments. As a result, the Coalition has admitted responsibility for killing 159 civilians – around 10% of the total number reported – but it has routinely dismissed the remainder as “non-credible.” However, to date the Coalition has failed to adequately probe civilian casualty reports or to interview witnesses and survivors, admitting it does not carry out site investigations.

Bringing cases to life

Rhetoric versus Reality brings to life the stories of families who lived and died in the war by taking users on a journey through the city; meeting survivors, hearing their testimonies and visiting their destroyed homes. From the bombed-out bridges spanning the Euphrates to the largely demolished old city near the central stadium, no neighbourhood was spared.

Developed with Holoscribe’s creative team, the interactive website combines  photographs, videos, 360-degree immersive experiences, satellite imagery, maps and data visualizations to highlight the cases and journeys of civilians caught under the Coalition’s bombardment. Users can also explore data on civilians who were killed, many of them after having fled from place to place across the city.

Entire city blocks flattened

Raqqa’s soaring civilian death toll is unsurprising given the Coalition’s relentless barrage of munitions that were inaccurate to the point of being indiscriminate when used near civilians.

One US military official boasted about firing 30,000 artillery rounds during the campaign – the equivalent of a strike every six minutes, for four months straight – surpassing the amount of artillery used in any conflict since the Viet Nam war. With a margin of error of more than 100 metres, unguided artillery is notoriously imprecise and its use in populated areas constitutes indiscriminate attacks.

One of the first neighbourhoods to be targeted was Dara’iya, a low-rise, poorer district in western Raqqa. In a ramshackle, half-destroyed house, Fatima, nine years old at the time, described how she lost three of her siblings and her mother, Aziza, when the Coalition rained volleys of artillery shells down on their neighbourhood on the morning of 10 June 2017. They were among 16 civilians killed on that street on that day alone. Fatima lost her right leg and her left leg was badly injured. She now uses a wheelchair donated by an NGO to get around and her only wish is to go to school.

Families wiped out in an instant

US, UK and French forces also launched thousands of air strikes into civilian neighbourhoods, scores of which resulted in mass civilian casualties.

In one tragic incident, a Coalition air strike destroyed an entire five-storey residential building near Maari school in the central Harat al-Badu neighbourhood in the early evening of 25 September 2017. Four families were sheltering in the basement at the time. Almost all of them – at least 32 civilians, including 20 children – were killed. A week later, a further 27 civilians – including many relatives of those killed in the earlier strike – were also killed when an air strike destroyed a nearby building.

Planes were bombing and rockets were falling 24 hours a day, and there were IS snipers everywhere. You just couldn’t breathe,” one survivor of the 25 September strike, Ayat Mohammed Jasem, told a TV crew when she returned to her destroyed home more than a year later. “I saw my son die, burnt in the rubble in front of me. I’ve lost everyone who was dear to me. My four children, my husband, my mother, my sister, my whole family. Wasn’t the goal to free the civilians? They were supposed to save us, to save our children.

Time for accountability

Many of the cases documented by Amnesty International likely amount to violations of international humanitarian law and warrant further investigation.

Despite their best efforts, NGOs like Amnesty International and Airwars will never have the resources to investigate the full extent of civilian deaths and injuries in Raqqa. The organizations are urging US-led Coalition members to put in place an independent, impartial mechanism to effectively and promptly investigate reports of civilian harm, including violations of international humanitarian law, and make the findings public.

Coalition members who carried out the strikes, notably the USA, the UK and France, must be transparent about their tactics, specific means and methods of attack, choice of targets, and precautions taken in the planning and execution of their attacks.

Coalition members must create a fund to ensure that victims and their families receive full reparation and compensation.

More Resources for Raqqa:

Site Tracker: https://decoders.amnesty.org/projects/strike-tracker

Investigative Report – War of Annihilation: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE2483672018ENGLISH.PDF

Investigative Report – Deadly Labyrinth, Citizens Trapped In Battle for Raqqa: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE2469452017ENGLISH.PDF


This report was originally published by Amnesty International on March 25th 2019. It was republished, with permission, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License, in accordance with the Terms & Conditions of Amnesty International | Formatting Edits and PDF’s added and embedded by Rogue Media Labs

 

Report from UK’s Ministry of Defense Claims To Only Have Killed 1 Civilian In Combat Throughout Iraq & Syria Over The Years

I felt compelled to write this article here today after coming across a piece of information that downright enraged me yesterday. This would be the news that, according to the United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense at least, UK forces have only killed 1 civilian in combat throughout the course of the Syrian Civil War and War in Iraq. The official report, along with files and statistics, was officially published by a European Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) going by the name of Action On Armed Violence towards the end of February – a report which also pretends to claim that British Forces are only responsible for the deaths of approximately 4,315 enemy combatants dating back to the beginnings of these armed conflicts dating back to 2003 and 2011.

However, according to another NGO going by the name of Rogue Security Labs, this report is absolutely asinine – and you can quote me on that. I say this because, according to UNICEF, over 560,000 people have died in the Syrian Civil War alone since the start of 2011. And according to Iraq Body Count (IBC), over 193,000 people have died in Iraq since the start of the War in 2003. This is not to mention the millions whom have been displaced by violence over the years, nor those who have died as a result of disease, famine or lack of resources in these countries over the same time period. Considering that the UK has been the single largest participant/donor to the US led coalition over the course of the last two decades, it’s an utterly absurd notion to think/state that the UK is only responsible for a little over 4,000 deaths. I mean honestly, who are they actually trying to fool or convince?

In response to news of the release yesterday, a spokesperson from Amnesty International stated: these statistics “beggars belief and show just how deeply in denial the Ministry of Defense is in its role of mass bombings – particularly in Mosul, Iraq and Raqqa, Syria.” Adding that “The US-led Coalition has admitted killing hundreds in Iraq and Syria. Why can’t the British own up to their role in this? The days in which powerful nations can subject foreign territories to massive bombardment and then refuse to admit and accept responsibility for the civilians that they kill and injure must be consigned to history.

To serve as proof refuting the MoD’s release, which can be found in its entirety at the very bottom of this article, Amnesty International has decided to republish all of their investigatory reports from recent battles in Iraq and Syria – evidence of just how widespread civilian casualties in Iraq and Syria have been, exposing just how ridiculous the MoD’s publication really is.

Full 70 pg Report – “WAR OF ANNIHILATION” The Devastating Toll The Syrian Civil War Has Taken On The Civilians of Raqqa, Syria: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE2483672018ENGLISH.PDF

No Where To Run, Trapped In Raqqa, Syria: https://raqqa-syria.amnesty.org/
Full 36 pg Investigative Report – Civilians Trapped In The Battle for Raqqa: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE2469452017ENGLISH.PDF

Civilians Bombed In Mosul, Iraq After Being Told Not To Flee Their Homes: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2017/03/iraq-civilians-killed-by-airstrikes-in-their-homes-after-they-were-told-not-to-flee-mosul/
Full 50 pg Report – At Any Cost, The Civilian Casualties As The US Led Coalition Fights for Mosul, Iraq: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/MDE1466102017ENGLISH.PDF

Download MoD’s Report for Yourself: https://roguemedia.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/UK_Ministry_of_Defense_Iraq_Syria_Casuality_List.pdf
Download Collated Data/Spreadsheet from Report: https://roguemedia.co/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Enemies-KilledWounded-in-Action.xlsx

UK Ministry of Defense Causalities Report 2019:

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Online Activists Launch Massive Crowd-Sourcing Campaign To Document, Map & Decode Raqqa’s Destruction

(AI) – Thousands of digital activists around the world will take part in an innovative new crowdsourcing data project Amnesty International is launching today, which uses satellite imagery to help plot how the US-led military coalition’s bombings destroyed almost 80% of the Syrian city of Raqqa.

Strike Tracker” is the next phase of an in-depth Amnesty International investigation, in partnership with Airwars, into the shocking scale of civilian casualties resulting from four months of US, UK and French bombardment to oust the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) from Raqqa. Amnesty International’s field investigations and analysis since the battle ended in October 2017 presented compelling evidence of apparent violations of international humanitarian law (the laws of war) by the US-led Coalition. They prompted the Coalition to revise its civilian death toll statistics upwards of 300%.

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Based on our meticulous on-the-ground investigations, hundreds of interviews amid the rubble of Raqqa, and expert military and geospatial analysis, we’ve been able to push the US-led coalition to admit to almost every civilian death case we’ve documented so far. But with bodies still being recovered from the wreckage and mass graves more than a year later, this is just the tip of the iceberg,” said Milena Marin, Senior Adviser for Tactical Research on Amnesty International’s Crisis Response team. “There is a mountain of evidence left to sift through, and the scale of the civilian devastation is simply too large for us to do this alone. With thousands of ‘Strike Trackers’ on the case to help us narrow down precisely when and where Coalition air and artillery strikes destroyed buildings, we can significantly scale up our ability to map out the apocalyptic destruction in Raqqa.

Get Started- Project Site Tracker: https://decoders.amnesty.org/projects/strike-tracker

How It Works

Strike Tracker” will allow anybody with a mobile phone or laptop to contribute to Amnesty International’s vital research into the pattern of civilian devastation – including potential violations of the laws of war – that the Coalition has been unable or unwilling to acknowledge so far.

UN data shows that more than 10,000 buildings in Raqqa were destroyed or damaged over the course of the battle in 2017. “Strike Tracker” will help to narrow down the time-frame of the destruction of each of these from months to weeks – or even days. Volunteers will track a building across a timeline of satellite images during the battle, looking for changes and marking the dates before and after the building’s destruction.

It is expected that anywhere from 3,000 to 5,000 digital activists will get involved in the month-long project. To ensure data quality, the aim is to have each destroyed building analysed multiple times by multiple trackers.

What Happens Next?

The results of “Strike Tracker” will contribute to Amnesty International’s wider efforts to:

  • raise awareness of the devastating impact on civilians trapped in Raqqa during the battle;
  • move the US-led Coalition’s position on civilian casualties from ongoing denial to accepting greater responsibility and carrying out meaningful investigations; and
  • assist and empower victims’ families and survivors to seek justice and reparation.

In a September 2018 letter to Amnesty International, the US Department of Defense – whose forces carried out most of the air strikes and all the artillery strikes on Raqqa – made clear it accepts no liability for the hundreds of civilian casualties it caused. The Coalition does not plan to compensate survivors and relatives of those killed in Raqqa and refuses to provide further information about the circumstances behind the strikes.

The Coalition’s blatant denials and shoulder-shrugging are unconscionable – their military offensive killed and maimed hundreds of civilians and then left the survivors to pick up the pieces,” said Milena Marin. “The data we glean from ‘Strike Tracker’ will take us one step closer to establishing the staggering scale of civilian casualties and will build on the legal obligation, as well as the moral imperative, for the Coalition to take full responsibility for its actions. It must acknowledge and properly investigate these cases once and for all, paving the way for justice and reparation.

Amnesty International and Airwars will publicize the results of “Strike Tracker” as part of an interactive digital platform in early 2019.

Background on Decoders

Strike Tracker” is the latest in a series of Amnesty International crowdsourcing data projects called Decoders. Since Decoders launched in June 2016, Amnesty International has successfully completed four projects, mobilizing more than 50,000 digital activists from 150 countries. The volunteers sifted through huge volumes of data, processing more than 1.5 million tasks. They helped Amnesty International researchers to analyse the success of urgent action campaignsdetect destroyed villages in remote Darfurhold oil companies to account for thousands of oil spills in Nigeria; and analyse tweets to detect online abuse and threats against women.

Learn More:

Syria – A year after Raqqa, US-led Coalition’s ongoing denials an insult to survivors: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/10/syria-a-year-after-raqqa-us-led-coalitions-ongoing-denials-an-insult-to-survivors/

Syria – Raqqa in ruins and civilians devastated after US-led ‘war of annihilation’: https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2018/06/syria-raqqa-in-ruins-and-civilians-devastated-after-us-led-war-of-annihilation/

No Where To Run – Trapped Inside Raqqa Syria: https://raqqa-syria.amnesty.org/


This article was originally published by Amnesty International on November 21st 2018. It was republished, with permission, under a Creative Commons BY-NC-ND 4.0 International License, in accordance with the Terms & Conditions of Amnesty International | Formatting Edits and pictures added by Rogue Media Labs