• Press Release

Defense Department undercounts civilian casualties in new reporting

May 6, 2020

Man walks on destroyed street in Raqqa, Syria
Responding to the Pentagon’s report on U.S. civilian casualties to Congress, Daphne Eviatar, the director of the Security with Human Rights program at Amnesty International USA stated:

“The Department of Defense’s submission of this year’s report marks some progress in terms of transparency of U.S. military operations. The content of the report, however, suggests that the Pentagon is still undercounting civilian casualties. It still fails to acknowledge hundreds of civilian casualties that Amnesty International’s researchers investigated on the ground in Raqqa, Syria, and assessed from the U.S.-led military operation in 2017.

“The Defense Department appears to have dismissed out of hand many of the civilian deaths and injuries we have documented in the past two years in Somalia, simply assessing them as “not credible” despite our extensive testimonial evidence and expert analysis of images and video from strike sites, satellite imagery, and weapons identification.

“We believe at least some of that disparity is due to the Defense Department failure to conduct its own interviews with witnesses and survivors, and failure to visit the locations of the strikes in places where U.S. forces are present and have access to strike locations, as is the case in Raqqa and parts of Iraq.

“If the U.S. is going to engage in lethal operations abroad, then it must develop a reliable means for investigating and reporting on who it has killed and injured in the process. The difficult work of credibly investigating the aftermath of operations is the responsibility of the governments who engage in lethal actions. It cannot be left to nongovernmental organizations like Amnesty International, which already has provided a vast amount of information on which the Defense Department has so far failed to act.

“These reports can be a crucial accountability mechanism for thousands of families around the world waiting for justice, and a tool for transparency for everyone concerned about what is being carried out by the United States military in its operations every year. But for these reports to meaningfully contribute to the accountability process, they must contain concrete information based on thorough investigations, and must lead to reparations for the families of the victims. So far, that’s not happening.”


U.S. military sheds some light on civilian casualties from shadowy war in Somalia (April 27, 2020)

Zero accountability as civilian deaths mount in Somalia from U.S. air strikes (March 30, 2020)

U.S. military shows appalling disregard for civilians killed in Somalia air strike (September 30, 2019)

Shocking disregard for civilians as U.S. drone strike in Afghanistan adds to death poll (September 19, 2019)

U.S.-led coalition admission of 1,300 civilian deaths in Iraq and Syria (May 31, 2019)

War in Raqqa: Rhetoric versus Reality (Report, April 25, 2019)

The Hidden U.S. War in Somalia (report, March 19, 2019)

Syria: Raqqa in ruins and civilians devastated after US-led ‘war of annihilation’ (report, June 4, 2018)

At any cost: the civilian catastrophe in West Mosul, Iraq (report, July 10, 2017)

To arrange an interview or further information contact Mariya Parodi, [email protected]