British war monitor to challenge Ministry of Defence over alleged killing of civilian

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UK-based war monitor Airwars is set to challenge the British Ministry of Defense (MoD) in court over its refusal to release basic information about a civilian killed in Syria in 2018.

Airwars, which has conducted airstrikes against Islamic State (IS) and other groups in Iraq, Syria and Libya since 2014, said on Wednesday it would challenge the MoD and the Information Commissioner in court, with the appeal to to emerge. later this year.

The case relates to the 26 March 2018 airstrike on IS fighters in which the UK government accepted the “unintentional” killing of a civilian, which Airwars said was “the only time the UK government has officially accepted harm to civilians”.

Former Defense Secretary Gavin Williamson told parliament in May 2018 that “during a strike to engage three Daesh (IS) fighters, a civilian motorbike entered the strike area at the last minute and one civilian is believed to have been killed unintended.”

Airwars asked the MoD to release basic information about this civilian, but the ministry refused.

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The group said that British aircraft had dropped more than 4,300 munitions during the eight years of the UK’s offensive on the anti-IS coalition in Iraq and Syria, and according to MoD figures, more than 4,000 IS fighters had been killed in the air raids. He says no other civilians were killed.

No record of the strike

British government logs of all air strikes by the RAF do not show a strike on 26 March 2018, the group said.

Airwars also said the civilian casualty unit, working within the US-led coalition, “reviewed the details of the same strike and concluded that there were no civilian casualties from the reported on-site strike”.

Local rights groups in Syria found “no evidence of any civilians killed by airstrikes in that region that day”.

Joe Dyke, head of investigations at Airwars, filed a Freedom of Information (FOI) request in 2021 after the MoD refused to release further information about the March 2018 incident.

‘Our clients are concerned about the fundamental lack of transparency in how the UK assesses the risk to civilians associated with its airstrikes’

– Erin Alcock, attorney

He asked for details about the location of the strike and documents showing how the determination was made that the victim was a civilian, Airwars said.

“These are vital questions for the British public and for the civilians in Iraq and Syria who have been affected by Britain’s actions,” said Emily Tripp, director of Airwars.

“While most comparable militaries, including the UK’s closest ally, the United States, are moving towards greater transparency and accountability regarding the unintended civilian impact of their activities, the UK is go the other way.

“The Ministry of Defense is still a black box.”

Airwars will be represented at the tribunal by Leigh Day solicitors and Monckton Chambers barrister Will Perry.

“Our clients are concerned about a fundamental lack of transparency around how the UK assesses the risk to civilians of its airstrikes before they are carried out, as well as how it investigates and assesses civilian casualties after the event,” Erin Alcock from Leigh Day. said.

“Transparency in civil injury cases is critical to ensuring accountability.”

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