Responding to the Australian Defence Force’s (ADF) admission that its air strikes in Mosul, Iraq may have caused up to 18 civilian deaths in 2017, Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, said:
“The Australian Defence Force’s latest admission that its air strikes killed civilians during the battle for Mosul in 2017 is a step in the right direction. Once again, the Australian government has proven more willing to take responsibility for causing loss of civilian life than its coalition partners, including the UK, USA and France.
“The matter must not end here, however. The ADF should continue to lead by example by providing the further details necessary to help an independent assessment of whether this attack and its operations in Mosul complied with international humanitarian law. We know that an Australian plane struck a target in West Mosul and unintentionally killed up to 18 civilians in a nearby house. In order to understand how this happened the ADF needs to disclose more information, including the type of weapon used in the strike, the nature of the target, what measures were taken to ensure that the target was a military objective, whether other means or methods of attack that would have minimized the risk to civilians were considered, and what was done to collect information about the presence of civilians in the vicinity.
“The ADF has taken a positive step by acknowledging that their attacks resulted in civilian casualties. What they must do now is provide the victims’ families with the best chance of achieving justice and accountability. The way to do this is to release the further information required.”
The Coalition’s battle to wrest Mosul from the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) began in October 2016 and ended in July 2017. Throughout the campaign, and especially in its later stages in West Mosul, the Coalition relied heavily upon air power, despite the presence of civilians trapped in the city by IS. Amnesty International revealed the effects of this upon the civilian population with its July 2017 report, At Any Cost: The Civilian Catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq.
On January 31, 2019, the Australian Defence Force’s Air Marshal Mel Hupfeld acknowledged that as many as 18 civilians were killed in an attack on a target in West Mosul in which two Australian Super Hornet F-18 jets were involved on June 13, 2017. This follows a previous ADF admission on March 28, 2018 that it killed two adults and injured two children in a strike on Mosul that came to light following Amnesty International investigations on the ground.