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Ezzatollah Sahhabi, arrested in December , was held in an unknown location. The other fourteen, arrested in March , were held incommunicado, most often in solitary confinement, in a Tehran detention center known as Prison One detainee, Saeid Madani, paid one billion rials, a sum equivalent to more than U. Prison 59, located in a Revolutionary Guard military installation in Eshratabad in central Tehran, is an unregulated detention facility outside the official penal system. All of the detainees, many of whom were elderly, complained of harsh treatment while in detention, including being beaten by their captors and, for much of the time, being held in small cells where they could only lie in a cramped position.

Detention conditions for several elderly prisoners were a cause of particular concern. Ezzatollah Sahhabi, more than seventy years old, was hospitalized twice with heart attacks. His medications were adjusted, but he was not been permitted to meet with his own doctor. Another prisoner, Dr. Habibollah Payman, sixty-six, a dentist, suffered from severe kidney and urinary tract problems, but was given only limited toilet access.

He was forced to use the drinking vessel in his cell to relieve himself, rinsing it out when given access to the bathroom. Raeis Toussi, sixty-five, a law professor at Tehran University, had one interrogation session that lasted more than twenty-four hours and three that exceeded eighteen hours each, all of which exacerbated a serious back injury.

He was held in solitary confinement for days. During the detentions, the judiciary blocked access to the detainees and prevented President Khatami from sending an observer to visit them. His closed-door trial began in Tehran on April 7. He, too, was released on payment of substantial bail, after spending more than a year in detention, much of it incommunicado in solitary confinement.

His lawyer complained that he was deprived of access to prosecution documents relating to the case. There was no outcome in this trial at this writing. In other political proceedings, the conservative-dominated judiciary convicted several politicians allied with President Khatami. In January, Member of Parliament M. Hossein Loghmanian was sentenced to ten months in prison. He had been convicted for insulting the judiciary in a speech he gave to Parliament, criticizing the arbitrary closure of newspapers, and protesting the imprisonment of political prisoners.

Two prominent jailed journalists, Emadedin Baqi and Akbar Ganji, remained in prison. In April, another prominent reformist journalist, Ahmed Zeid Abadi, received a twenty-three-month jail term for spreading propaganda against the state and insulting officials.

He had been detained two years previously for seven months.

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He remained free on bail pending appeal. The charges followed a celebrated speech he made in June criticizing the clergy's role in politics and urging disobedience of senior clerical leaders on religious grounds. MIRO was an important strand of the coalition of reformist groups in the Parliament and Aghajari's blunt comments indicated growing frustration among some reformists over the lack of progress. In November, a Revolutionary Court sentenced Aghajari to death for blasphemy and insulting the clergy.

His lawyer filed an appeal against the sentence in December. Behrouz Geranpayeh, the head of the National Institute for Opinion Polls, was detained in October and held incommunicado for more than a month while under interrogation after publishing a poll showing the majority of Iranians favored restoring relations with the United States. In November, two heads of private research institutes that had conducted the poll, Abbas Abdi and Hossein Ali Ghazian, also prominent reformist figures, were arrested.

They faced charges of "collaboration with U. Other notable incidents of arbitrary detention included that of Siamak Pourzand, a seventy-three-year-old journalist seized outside his sister's house in November He was then held in an unknown location before being brought to trial, in secret, in March. With their disregard for pre-trial safeguards, the proceedings flagrantly violated fair trial standards. The journalist was released in November, but remained under threat of prosecution.

In June, an Iranian dancer, Mohamad Khordadian, who had been living in Los Angeles for twenty-two years before returning to visit his family, was arrested on charges of corrupting public morality. At his trial he received a ten-year suspended prison term and was banned from returning to the United States.

In September, an actress, who kissed a film director at a film festival, was also prosecuted for corrupting public morality. These high-profile prosecutions exemplified attempts by hardline conservatives to generate public concern over a supposed decline in public morality, of which they were the self-appointed guardians. Senior Shi'a religious leaders and their supporters who dissented from the ruling clerical establishment remained targets of official persecution. A telling incident occurred in Qom in December , at the funeral for Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Shirazi, a leading clerical figure who questioned the form of government in the Islamic Republic.

At the funeral, his body was seized by security forces and interred in Hazrat-i Masumeh mosque, the major shrine in the city. He had expressed his wish to be buried on the grounds of his house, but the authorities apparently feared that his tomb might become a rallying point for clerical opposition. Grand Ayatollah Hossain Ali Montazeri, the former designated successor to Ayatollah Khomeini as Leader of the Islamic Republic, remained under house arrest in Qom, although his ideas continued to circulate widely. Iran's religious and ethnic minorities remained subject to discrimination and persecution.

Representatives of the predominantly Sunni Muslim Kurdish minority protested the appointment of a new governor of Kurdistan province from the Shi'a majority. The authorities overlooked Sunni candidates for the post put forward by Kurdish parliamentarians. The lack of public school education in Kurdish language remained a perennial source of Kurdish frustration.

Toujali had sought political asylum in Turkey, but had been unsuccessful in his claim. Turkish police then forcibly returned him to Iran. Other PDKI supporters reportedly remained in jail facing execution. The ten Jewish Iranians sentenced to prison in Shiraz in were released in October after appeals for their release by the representative of the Jewish community in Parliament, Maurice Motamed. Some of the prisoners had served longer than their allotted sentences.

Throughout the year, Motamed also drew attention to institutional discrimination against religious minorities, including continued limits on access to educational opportunities and employment. In August, in a bold move, he proposed a bill calling for equivalence in the amount of Diyeh blood money between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Qisas retribution system of criminal law specifies penalties for various crimes which differ according to the religion of the victim and the perpetrator.

In general, non-Muslims are subject to harsher penalties and enjoy fewer protections than Muslims. Motamed's bill, which remained under consideration at the end of the year, would remove these discrepancies although it would not apply to Iran's largest religious minority, followers of the Baha'i faith. Baha'is also continued to face persecution, including being denied permission to worship or to carry out other communal affairs publicly. At least four Baha'is were serving prison terms for their religious beliefs.

Bihnam Mithaqi and Kayvan Khalajabadi, imprisoned since , were informed in January that their sentences would run until Musa Talibi, imprisoned in , was held in Isfahan. It was not clear whether his death sentence had been commuted. Zhabihullah Mahrami, imprisoned since and convicted of apostasy, had his death sentence commuted in March.

The campaign by conservatives against moral decline, noted above, was accompanied by an increase in public executions and corporal punishment. In October, the authorities carried out public executions of five men convicted of a series of attacks on women in Tehran. Their bodies were hoisted on mobile cranes and driven through the city. In Hamedan, on October 15, two thieves convicted of more than thirty robberies each had four fingers amputated in a public ceremony.

With the collapse of the Taliban government in Afghanistan, hundreds of thousands of Afghan refugees who had been living in Iran began to return.

Human Rights Watch World Report Middle East & Northern Africa: Iran

Some one million Afghan refugees remained in Iran at this writing. Shadowy underground paramilitary forces, linked to hardline conservative clerical leaders unwilling to relinquish their continuing grip on power, continued to be implicated in violent unrest. Sporadic clashes in the streets between crowds and riot police supported by Basij, religious paramiltary forces, occurred at various times throughout the year. One clash took place in October following Iran's elimination from the soccer World Cup. Although these clashes and demonstrations often took on a political complexion, they tended to be small and easily contained by the authorities.

Several thousand people marched in Tehran in July in what was becoming an annual event to commemorate a raid by paramilitary forces on student dormitories at Tehran University. At least four students detained in Ahmed Batebi, Mehrdad Lohrassbi, Akbar Mohammadi and Manouchehr Mohammadi--remained in prison serving long prison terms. There were sporadic clashes with police and hardline vigilantes, but no serious disturbances.

The major student organization that supported the reform movement had urged its members to stay away from the march for fear of provoking a clash with hardliners. Students nationwide protested the death sentence imposed on Hashem Aghajari in November. Protests subsided when senior clerical leaders threatened the students. On November 22, Ayatollah Khamenei issued an ultimatum stating that students should "return to their homes" or "the people will intervene" against them, a thinly veiled threat to unleash the same paramilitary forces that the authorities had used in July to crush student protests.

Access to the country for independent human rights investigators remained restricted, although the government did declare its willingness to admit U.


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There continued to be lively discussion of human rights issues in the press and in Parliament, although independent local human rights groups were not permitted to function. Several lawyers known for their defense of human rights were targets of prosecution. Mohammad Dadkhah, part of the defense team of the Iranian Freedom Movement, was sentenced to five months in prison in May. He was also banned from practicing law for ten years. The judiciary confirmed the sentences of several lawyers associated with reformist causes, including cases relating to the assassinations of writers and intellectuals in One lawyer, Nasser Zarafshan, was sentenced to five years in prison and fifty lashes.

The bar association described the flogging sentence as indefensible and unjustifiable. The appeal was dismissed. Zarafshan had probed the involvement of Ministry of Intelligence officials in the murders and claimed in the press that there were more victims of these killings than had been mentioned in the trial of officials involved in the killings.

European and Iranian officials met repeatedly throughout the year to extend cooperation in a range of areas, including counter-terrorism, trade, and the promotion of human rights. The E. According to data from the Iraq Body Count, more than 92, Iraqi civilians died because of armed violence during this period. To link individual deaths with perpetrators and their methods, the researchers analyzed the 60, civilian deaths caused by short-duration events of lethal violence events that lasted less than 24 hours and that occurred in a specific location; for example, overnight air strikes.

Extrajudicial executions by unknown perpetrators were responsible for one-third of these deaths and disproportionately increased as deaths from other forms of violence increased across Iraq. Unknown perpetrator suicide bombings that targeted civilians and coalition aerial bombings killed most civilians per lethal event 19 and 17 deaths per lethal event on average, respectively. Finally, the researchers calculated the proportion of women and children among civilian deaths.

Coalition forces had a higher DWI than anti-coalition forces for all weapons combined, with no decrease over the study period. These findings show that during the first 5 years of the Iraq war, civilian deaths varied over time and location and in terms of victim characteristics and targeting of civilians. Although limited to direct deaths and possibly subject to some media bias, these findings show that most civilian deaths were inflicted by unknown perpetrators, and that unknown perpetrators had particularly lethal and indiscriminate effects on Iraqi civilians.

However, they also show that Coalition forces had indiscriminate lethal effects on civilian populations. In part, this may be because Coalition forces had a high risk of killing civilians accidentally because they could not easily recognize anti-coalition combatants fighting without uniforms among civilians. Nevertheless, the relatively indiscriminate effects of Coalition aerial weapons highlight the need to change policies relating to the use of air power in future armed conflicts.

The International Committee of the Red Cross provides information about war and International humanitarian law in several languages. The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development Web site provides information on the global burden of armed violence. More details on the Iraq Body Count are available.

The Human Security Report Project tracks global and regional trends in organized violence, their causes, and consequences. Every Casualty supports and is a resource for the documentation of individual casualties of armed conflict. Armed violence in war is an ongoing, significant public health and humanitarian problem internationally [1] — [9]. A global assessment of the burden of armed violence in — found that persons living in Iraq had the highest risk of dying violently in conflict, peaking at 91 violent deaths per , population in [7].

In , we described patterns of civilian death caused by different weapons used in the Iraq war, and highlighted weapon-effects on children and female civilians [10]. Here, we analysed the perpetrators of armed violence in Iraq. We have also expanded our analysis to describe civilian deaths by perpetrators over time, by geographic area, to compare effects of weapons as used by different perpetrators, and to compare the demographic composition of their civilian victims. Analysis of carefully documented civilian deaths caused by perpetrators and their weapons improves understanding of their impact on general public health as well as on vulnerable demographic subgroups, creates a burden of responsibility, and provides data on the nature and effects of violence to inform the development of preventive policies [1] — [12].

The Iraq war has involved both conventional state-to-state warfare and asymmetric, irregular warfare, with continuous international media coverage that has resulted in detailed reports on thousands of events causing civilian death. Iraq Body Count IBC , a nongovernmental organization, has systematically collated a wide range of data from such reports as a means to monitor and document Iraqi civilian casualties from armed violence since the war's beginning on March 20, [13] , [14].

The resulting database interlinks specific violent events with their perpetrators, the weapons used, the individual civilians killed, and the victim's demographic characteristics. By making links to perpetrators, civilian death can be examined not only as an important public health outcome, but also as an indicator of combatants' compliance with laws of war that require the protection of civilians from targeted or indiscriminate harm [7] , [15].

Laws of war are international humanitarian laws and customary standards regarding the treatment of civilians and combatants e. Our specific aims in this study were: 1 to describe Iraqi civilian deaths attributable to perpetrators over time, specifically over the first 5 y of the Iraq war; 2 to identify which forms of armed violence used by various perpetrators caused the greatest numbers of civilian deaths or killed the most civilians in an average event in which a civilian died; 3 to describe the distribution of civilian violent deaths across Iraq's governorates and, because in we identified extrajudicial executions as the most prevalent form of violent death [10] , to assess whether numbers of execution deaths in governorates had a relationship to numbers of nonexecution deaths and if so, what kind of relationship; 4 to describe the demographic composition of perpetrators' civilian victims over time and by weapon in terms of deaths of men, women, and children.

We emphasize deaths of women and children because they are identified as vulnerable populations in public health and under laws of war [15] , [16]. Moreover, because women and children are less often targeted than men in Iraq's conflict [10] , as in most conflicts [17] , [18] , high proportions of women and children among victims can signal possible indiscriminate behavior or weapons [5] , [10].

The DWI is a data-driven public health tool based on laws of war that can systematically identify rates of a particularly undesirable or prohibited, i. Our final aim was to compare military opponents using a common weapon-type in war—small arms—to see if they differed in causing deaths of Iraqi civilians, women, and children by their gunfire.

The IBC database was prospectively developed by the authors HD and JAS when an invasion of Iraq appeared imminent in , with the aim of systematically recording and monitoring deaths of individual Iraqi civilians from armed violence [13] , [14]. Data sources are mainly professional media reports, including international and Iraqi press in translation.

IBC uses key-word searches to scan Internet-published, English-language press and media reports of armed violence in Iraq directly resulting in civilian death. This process uses search engines and subscription-based press and media collation services e. Reports are scanned from over separate press and media outlets meeting IBC's criteria: 1 public Web-access; 2 site updated daily; 3 all stories separately archived on the site, with a unique URL; and 4 English as a primary or translated language.

Sources include dozens of Arabic-language news media that release violent incident reports in English e. These and other international media in Iraq increasingly employ Iraqis trained in-house as correspondents. Media-sourced data are cross-checked with, and supplemented by, data from hospitals, morgues, nongovernmental organizations, and official figures [13].

For deaths to be added to the IBC database, at least one civilian must be reported killed by the event, with the number of deaths indicated in the source, and time and location adequately described for IBC to avoid double-counting. IBC has found that no single media source covers much more than half of all lethal violent incidents reported, thereby requiring a systematic process such as IBC's to knit together media and other sources in order to collate all reported violent deaths of civilians and to ensure that deaths are not double-counted.

Whenever possible on the basis of reported data, IBC records a total of 18 variables for each lethal event, including: time of event, location of event, presence of an identifiable target, perpetrators, weapons, media sources, witnesses, injuries, and name, sex, age, and occupation of each victim. When accounts from independent sources differ, variables are entered from reports with the most detail or the best-placed informants e.

Most frequent informants for reported armed violence deaths are morgue and hospital medics, police and other Iraqi official sources, eyewitnesses, and relatives. When equally credible reports differ on the number of deaths, minimum and maximum deaths are recorded for the event. Entries are independently reviewed and systematically error-checked by three IBC members before data are published on IBC's open Web site [13].

We analyzed the IBC database records updated as of July 12, for Iraqi civilian violent deaths that occurred during the first 5 y of the Iraq war, which began with the US-led Coalition invasion on March 20, March 20, through March 19, We first analyzed the total database, which included deaths from aggregate reports hospital and morgue reports and deaths from violent events of any duration, to describe yearly and total reported Iraqi civilian violent deaths by perpetrators. From this total database, we extracted a dataset of civilian deaths attributable to specific short-duration events.

Short-duration events span no more than two calendar dates, occur in a specific location, and cause one or more reported direct civilian deaths e. Analyzing short-duration events allows tighter, more reliable linkages between a perpetrator's use of a particular weapon-type in a specific time and place, and their effects on numbers killed and victim demographics. Use of limited-duration events also allows comparison of perpetrators' effects within a uniform time span in this case, two days.

Iraqi civilian deaths as defined in the IBC database and this study include all children, most women, all noncombatants, and police carrying out regular, but not paramilitary, duties, as police constitute part of civil society [19]. A child is under age 18, based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child [20] and Iraqi law that 18 is the voting age and age of consent [14].

Women and men are adults aged 18 y or older, of known sex. Execution is the extrajudicial killing of any abducted or captured individual by any method. Executions include combatants subjected to extrajudicial execution postcapture, as after capture they become noncombatants protected under international humanitarian law [15] , [16]. Iraq's conflict environment is one in which perpetrators are not equally identifiable when they harm Iraqi civilians.

Coalition forces are identifiable by uniforms, and in some cases e. In contrast, sectarian and Anti-Coalition insurgent forces routinely do not wear uniforms or identifying marks during military actions [21] — [23]. Moreover, claims of responsibility for attacks, if made at all, are unreliable, and responsibility may be distributed across multiple groups due to the practice of subcontracting stages of weapon production and deployment [19] , [21] , [24]. IBC accurately reflects the nature of Iraq's armed conflict and the extent to which perpetrators of violence can, and cannot, be identified, through its three main perpetrator categories: Coalition forces, Anti-Coalition forces, and Unknown perpetrators.

Deaths are attributed to Coalition forces which chiefly consist of US forces when data from reports identify Coalition perpetrators. Anti-Coalition forces, although visually indistinguishable from civilians, are identified as Anti-Coalition by their attack on a Coalition target which includes Coalition-associated targets, such as Iraqi police checkpoints, Iraqi security forces, and government targets.

Unknown perpetrators are those who target civilians i. Unknown i. Intercooled Stata Maximum deaths are used for events with reported minimum and maximum numbers because IBC finds subsequent evidence usually confirms initial maximum reports. Proportions were compared using chi-square testing, and means using one-way ANOVA, to obtain two-tailed p -values. Table 1 shows reported Iraqi civilian deaths from armed violence for the period of March 20, through March 19, , by responsible perpetrator and by postinvasion year.

Table 1 shows the origins of violent death data for perpetrators and years. We analyzed the effects of perpetrators and their weapons on civilians using the dataset of 60, Iraqi civilian deaths from 14, short-duration violent events that caused at least one reported civilian death.

Reports on short-duration violent events link perpetrators using particular methods in a specific time and place to their resulting civilian deaths. Findings are of documented deaths of individuals; they are not estimates. Other than Table 1 , all tables and figures describe deaths from short-duration violence only and exclude the 32, deaths from reports of prolonged violence lasting over 2 d and deaths reported only in aggregate summaries predominantly morgue-reported deaths from executions and small arms gunfire.

Figure 1 shows Iraqi civilian deaths from Anti-Coalition suicide bombers over time: deaths peaked in , with substantial deaths in , and in mid to Figure 1 shows deaths from Coalition air attacks without ground fire over time: A high peak of Iraqi civilian deaths from Coalition air attacks occurred during the invasion in , with lower peaks in and in mid to Analysis of reported civilian deaths from short-duration violent events lasting 2 d or less, March 20, through March 19, An additional measure of the civilian impact of perpetrators' weapons is shown in Table 2: the mean i.

We compared mean numbers of civilians killed by lethal events from different modes of delivery of improvised explosive devices IEDs by comparing suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, and roadside bombs. Table 3 lists Iraq's 18 governorates with their total reported civilian deaths from short-duration violence, numbers, and proportions executed by Unknown perpetrators, and numbers and proportions whose bodies showed signs of torture before execution. A factor in Wassit's unusually high proportion of reported executions is that the Tigris River flows from Baghdad through Wassit by the town of Swaira, where a system of weirs, originally designed to trap lily pads, catches corpses carried downstream from Baghdad [25].

Figure 2 shows the overall relationship between nonexecution violent deaths and deaths from Unknown perpetrators carrying out extrajudicial executions in Iraq's governorates. The statistically significant, increasingly steep curve of the quadratic regression indicates that as areas have higher numbers of nonexecution violent deaths of civilians, they have increasingly higher numbers of civilians executed by Unknown perpetrators.

To illustrate: if starting with 1, nonexecution deaths, an additional nonexecution deaths predicts an additional On the basis of demographic information in reports, we identified the 60, civilian victims of short-duration violence to be: 17, Among the 22, Iraqi civilian victims demographically identifiable as men, women, or children, Among 2, child deaths, Table 4 shows victim demographics from perpetrators and their specific methods of short-duration armed violence for 60, Iraqi civilian deaths.

Unknown perpetrators targeting civilians caused Anti-Coalition forces caused Coalition forces caused 4. For the 36, civilian victims of unreported age, Woman and child deaths from Coalition forces peaked during the invasion in , whereas those from Anti-Coalition forces peaked in — A Monthly numbers of women and children killed. Another comparison of perpetrators' civilian impact, made in Table 4 , uses the Woman and Child DWI to indicate the proportion of a perpetrator's victims who were women or children among their civilian victims of known demographic status possible DWI range 0— [15].

Small arms firearms are designed to be carried by one individual and include handguns, automatic weapons, assault rifles, and machine guns [26].

UNMIL Timeline of Key Events 2003-2018

As shown in Table 2 , both Anti-Coalition and Coalition forces killed an average of two Iraqi civilians per short-duration event where their gunfire caused any civilian death. A Monthly numbers of civilians killed by Coalition and Anti-Coalition gunfire. Conflict-associated violent mortality is a product of perpetrators' behavior, their weapons technology, interactions between opponents, and context [27] — [29]. Our analysis shows how Iraqi civilian deaths from perpetrators of violence during the first 5 y of the Iraq war have varied over time, by geographic locale, according to perpetrators' weapons of choice, in demographic characteristics, and according to whether or not civilians are targeted.

Three-quarters of Iraqi civilian victims of armed violence were killed in direct targeting, either by sectarian or Anti-Coalition combatants disguised as civilians, or by criminals encompassed in our Unknown perpetrator category. When any military combatant intentionally targets civilians, this constitutes a war crime [15] , [16] , [19] , [30].

Although a military force incurs primary responsibility for its civilian victims, whether intended or unintended, a possible factor affecting our comparison of civilian deaths from Anti-Coalition forces and Coalition forces is that Coalition combatants present clear, uniformed military targets to Anti-Coalition forces and are easily distinguished from Iraqi civilians.

This would decrease the Anti-Coalition likelihood of killing civilians accidently. In contrast, Anti-Coalition combatants are visually indistinguishable from civilians during military actions and often fight from among civilians; practices that violate laws of war, displace their own risk as combatants onto Iraqi civilians, and predictably contribute to civilian deaths [15] , [19] , [30] — [32].

Recent reports have emphasized the potential high risk to civilians from explosive weapons [5] , [8] , [33]. This concern is supported by our findings for Iraq. For events that caused a civilian death, the greatest average numbers of civilian deaths per event resulted from Unknown perpetrator suicide bombings and from Coalition air attacks.

Civilian deaths from air attacks, which typically involve bombs or missiles, peaked during the invasion. Of all methods used by Unknown and Anti-Coalition perpetrators, suicide bombers killed the greatest numbers of Iraqi civilians per event. Execution by Unknown perpetrators was the most prevalent form of violent death affecting Iraqi civilians in — Our findings on the geographic distribution and nature of violent death across Iraq's governorates show that deaths from executions, and executions with torture, progressively and disproportionately increased as deaths from other forms of violence increased.

Further quantitative and qualitative study is needed to identify reasons behind this finding. We speculate that increased numbers of civilian violent deaths in governorates may indicate environments of lower security and greater impunity, which allow perpetrators to increase the scale of systematic use of executions—a cheap, low-technology form of armed violence—for purposes of retribution, punishment, intimidation, and financial gain. In Iraq, torture before execution and methods of disposal of corpses often leave mutilated bodies to be discovered [24] , [25] , [38].

In this way, perpetrators in Iraq may use bodies of tortured victims to send a message, to terrorize, to clear territory, to display the cost of resisting their power, to destabilize security [17] , [24] , or to increase the stakes in future ransom of abductees. On an individual level, increased exposure to violence, which can cause desensitization and peer-induced escalation [29] , may disproportionately increase numbers of individuals willing to perpetrate executions or the propensity of perpetrators to inflict torture on captives. Our demographic analysis shows that Iraqi civilian men are the main civilian victims of lethal armed violence in this war, as in other wars [17] , [18] , despite having the same protected civilian status as women and children civilians under laws of war [16] , [39].

Because women and children are less targeted in Iraq's conflict, we use a Woman and Child DWI measuring the proportion of women and children among civilian victims of known demographic status to indicate relatively indiscriminate weapons or weapons-use in comparisons between perpetrators. Indiscriminate weapons and indiscriminate use of weapons are prohibited under laws of war [5] , [8] , [15] , [16].

Although our Woman and Child DWI findings are not direct assessments of the legality of military actions under laws of war, and are subject to limitations discussed below, they can be useful to signal relatively higher-risk indiscriminate effects of perpetrator's weapons on women and children. We found the highest risks for indiscriminate effects on women and children when civilians were killed were from: Unknown perpetrators using mortars against civilians, Unknown perpetrators using nonsuicide vehicle bombs against civilians, and Coalition air attacks without ground fire, involving bombs or missiles.

Compared to Anti-Coalition forces, Coalition forces caused a higher total Woman and Child DWI for —, with no evidence of a significant decrease over time. Face validity of our findings on the Woman and Child DWI for Iraq's conflict environment is suggested by demographic data recently released by the Government of Iraq on 4, civilian violent deaths in 3, men, women, and children [40].

Our temporal analysis of Coalition weapon-effects showed that numbers of woman and child deaths, and numbers of civilian deaths from air attacks, peaked during the invasion of March 20, to May 1, , when the Coalition used heavy air power. These findings, combined with the high Woman and Child DWI outcomes from air attacks, suggest that heavy reliance on air power during the invasion may have been particularly costly for Iraqi civilians—and especially for women and children—in terms of deaths and injuries.

Our findings support the view that indiscriminate lethal effects of explosive aerial weapons on civilians need to be addressed through changed practice and policy on the use of air power in armed conflict, with air attacks on populated areas prohibited or systematically monitored to demonstrate civilian protection [5] , [8] , [10] , [33]. Most civilian deaths from small arms gunfire were caused by Unknown perpetrators targeting civilians.

Although Anti-Coalition forces and Coalition forces caused the same average number of civilian gunfire deaths per lethal event while firing on presumably military targets, our findings suggest that Coalition gunfire had a more indiscriminate effect on Iraqi women and children. A possible factor may be that Anti-Coalition forces often wage battle amid or near civilians, sometimes from homes with women and children, thereby placing these civilians at risk of Coalition fire [30] , [31]. Also, we counted among Anti-Coalition civilian victims Iraqi police who were killed while in civil roles at Coalition-associated targets such as police stations, academies or checkpoints.

Possible contributing Coalition factors include reports of indiscriminate or disproportionate Coalition gunfire during raids on Iraqi homes [30] , [42] , into urban residential surroundings [30] , [42] , and near convoys and roadside checkpoints [17] , [23] , [30] , [42] , [43] when perceiving threat, when attacked and after being attacked [17] , [23] , [30].

It has been suggested that Coalition troops may have fired more indiscriminately when shifted rapidly between roles of active combat and civilian engagement, and when in conditions of inadequate training and interpreters, poorly marked checkpoints, or low accountability [30] , [42] , [43]. Although it has been reported that these problems were addressed [30] , [43] and that civilian deaths from Coalition gunfire decreased as a result [30] , our data show no evidence of a significant decrease in numbers of civilian deaths from Coalition gunfire during the period of our study, or in Woman and Child DWIs.

Our findings suggest that relatively indiscriminate effects from Coalition gunfire persisted over 5 y postinvasion, and that military efforts to minimize civilian casualties need to be coupled with systematic monitoring of casualties in order to assess and strengthen civilian protection. We do not examine indirect deaths from war, deaths of combatants, or perpetrators' patterns of civilian deaths after the first 5 y of the war.

Although it is not possible for this paper to describe detailed, event-based demographic, temporal, and geographic patterns of civilian deaths from perpetrators and their weapons that occurred after our study's 5-y time-period March 20, to March 19, , we can provide an overview based on the public database of the IBC Web site [13] : Monthly rates of Iraqi civilian deaths from armed violence averaged 1, deaths per month for the period of our study, then began to decline in May of Since July , deaths have persistently varied between to under per month, averaging deaths per month.

Our findings do not represent total violent deaths or events affecting Iraqi civilians, as not every death or event are reported. For deaths from perpetrators' weapon-types, we only analyzed those attributable to single weapon-types and single perpetrators in short-duration events. This analysis understates total absolute numbers killed by each perpetrator's weapon-type, but increases reliability in attributing deaths and allows comparison of proportional effects within a uniform time-frame.

In attributing civilian deaths to perpetrators, Coalition forces are generally identifiable, so Coalition-induced civilian deaths are directly measured. In contrast, Anti-Coalition forces are indirectly identified by their Coalition target; a necessarily conservative identification of Anti-Coalition perpetrators for accuracy because Anti-Coalition forces routinely avoid identification by uniforms or markings. Anti-Coalition-caused deaths identified in this dataset therefore only represent civilians killed by Anti-Coalition military targeting.

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An unknown, additional number were killed in direct civilian targeting by unidentifiable Anti-Coalition forces, included within our category of Unknown perpetrators, whose findings as a whole can be understood to represent direct civilian targeting. A factor that increases child deaths from Coalition forces is the use by Anti-Coalition forces of children age 10 to 17 in attacks against Coalition forces [44] — [46]. Use of child soldiers is against laws of war and a war crime if the child is under age 15 [15] , [16].

Although quantitative data are very limited [44] — [46] , child soldiers are not prevalent in Iraq's conflict. However, some child deaths in our study are likely to be of children placed in combatant roles at their time of death. Although we know of no evidence that media coverage bias affects armed conflict reporting on civilian victim sex or age, we consider it possible that media reports may identify women and children more readily than men civilians among the dead, perhaps for human interest or from a normative assumption that a victim of armed violence is a man unless stated otherwise.

If this bias exists it could inflate woman and child percentage findings among civilian deaths generally for all perpetrators and weapons. Government data on victim demographics are unavailable for — However, until more directly comparable data are available for replication, we suggest that our Woman and Child DWI findings should be considered robust indicators of the relative demographic characteristics of civilian deaths, rather than absolute proportions of civilian deaths.

There is no evidence to suggest that differential reporting bias between perpetrators or weapons affects our comparisons of mean numbers of civilians killed per event or of proportions of women and children among civilian deaths e. However, our Woman and Child DWI findings should be considered suggestive until careful studies for possible reporting bias are done. Although we show in Table 4 unreported demographic data for readers' information civilian victims of unreported age, children of unreported sex, and in the footnote, adults of unreported sex , assessment for bias in reporting demographic information requires knowing the true demographic composition of the unknowns within this dataset, or comparison to a matched, independent dataset of comparable detail.

A study using the IBC database found no media-reporting bias for governorates with higher levels of insurgent violence to have any more, or less, missing information on event location, but missing demographic information was not examined [47]. It has been established that media reports can provide systematic, meaningful data on conflict casualties [1] , [7] , [10] , [11] , [34] , [48] — [50].

A general limitation of conflict studies that use media reports is that journalists collect information in their reports for purposes other than systematic inquiry and, as we illustrate here, study is needed to assess possible bias in media reports describing perpetrators, weapons, and victims of armed conflict. Establishing standards for reporting victim information could maximize the contribution of media reports to understanding violence. A strength of our study is its use of verifiable data on 92, actual civilian deaths from armed violence. Surveys extrapolate from relatively few actual violent deaths, e.

Although epidemiological surveys in armed conflicts can provide good mortality data, they can be affected by recall bias, reporting bias, survival bias, and difficulties in implementation [3] , [47] , [52] , [53]. IBC data correlate with IFHS data showing similar trends and distribution of violent deaths by governorate [51] and with ILCS data [41] for war-related deaths by governorate [54] , with some differences because the surveys did not always differentiate combatant from civilian deaths, as is often the case in surveys owing to sensitivity, danger, or response unreliability [52] , [55] , [56].

Clinical studies can provide data on civilian conflict mortality from weapon-types. However, most clinical studies use aggregate hospital samples untraceable to causative events or perpetrators, and results can be biased by prehospital patterns of mortality that vary by weapon or injury, and by local treatment access and quality [57] — [61].

Our analysis describes only violence that resulted in a civilian death. As of the time of writing this paper, military actors have not released systematic data on their use of weapons in events that leave civilians unharmed; data that would allow analysis of their practice of civilian-protective warfare. Anti-Coalition forces release no data on use of weapons, and among Coalition forces, the US Air Force has released only partial data on some types of air strikes and munitions dropped in Iraq, without systematic reports of actions that caused or avoided civilian casualties [62] — [65].

The recent, unauthorized release of US Army SIGACT significant activity records covering — by WikiLeaks will yield data on weapons, perpetrators, and casualties from the perspective of the US military, but will require time for careful analysis [66]. Use of transparent, verifiable systems for tracking and measuring civilian and combatant casualties from all military actions could identify civilian-protective tactics e.

Improved civilian protection decreases preventable civilian deaths, physical injuries, and psychological injuries, such as the increased mental disorders found in Iraqi citizens exposed to bomb blasts, mutilated bodies, and gunfire [68]. Our findings on civilian deaths from perpetrators and their weapons during 5 y of the Iraq war illustrate the feasibility as well as the public health and humanitarian potential of detailed tracking of war's effects on a civilian population.

No direct funding was received for this study. No funding bodies had any role in the study design, data collection, analysis, decision to publish or preparation of the manuscript. National Center for Biotechnology Information , U. PLoS Med. Published online Feb Bagnall , 2 John A. Sloboda , 2 , 3 and Michael Spagat 3. Peter M. John A. Alan D. Lopez, Academic Editor. Author information Article notes Copyright and License information Disclaimer. Received Mar 22; Accepted Jan 4. Copyright Hicks et al. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are properly credited.

This article has been cited by other articles in PMC. Abstract Background Armed violence is a major public health and humanitarian problem in Iraq. Conclusions Most Iraqi civilian violent deaths during — of the Iraq war were inflicted by Unknown perpetrators, primarily through extrajudicial executions that disproportionately increased in regions with greater numbers of violent deaths. Editors' Summary Background Civilian deaths through armed violence is a public health and humanitarian problem in all wars, despite internationally agreed humanitarian standards regarding the treatment of civilians during wars—so-called laws of war such as the Geneva Conventions.

Why Was This Study Done? What Did the Researchers Do and Find?

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What Do These Findings Mean? This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Robert Muggah The International Committee of the Red Cross provides information about war and International humanitarian law in several languages The Geneva Declaration on Armed Violence and Development Web site provides information on the global burden of armed violence More details on the Iraq Body Count are available The Human Security Report Project tracks global and regional trends in organized violence, their causes, and consequences Every Casualty supports and is a resource for the documentation of individual casualties of armed conflict.

Introduction Armed violence in war is an ongoing, significant public health and humanitarian problem internationally [1] — [9]. Methods The Database The IBC database was prospectively developed by the authors HD and JAS when an invasion of Iraq appeared imminent in , with the aim of systematically recording and monitoring deaths of individual Iraqi civilians from armed violence [13] , [14].

Definitions Iraqi civilian deaths as defined in the IBC database and this study include all children, most women, all noncombatants, and police carrying out regular, but not paramilitary, duties, as police constitute part of civil society [19]. Perpetrators Iraq's conflict environment is one in which perpetrators are not equally identifiable when they harm Iraqi civilians.