Podcast: Civilians searching for answers from the US

Over the years, the United States has developed practices to track and investigate civilian harm caused by airstrikes. Besides that, Congress authorizes three million dollars a year for payments for civilians harmed by US operations. Nonetheless, despite many years of advocating for better practices, there are still some big gaps. Year after year, the US military keeps underreporting civilian casualties and the US remains reluctant to apologize and give monetary compensation to the victims.

In ‘In Search of Answers’, the second podcast episode of The Civilian Protection Podcast series created by CIVIC and PAX, moderators Marc Garlasco (PAX) and Annie Shiel (CIVIC) explore what happens after civilians are harmed by US airstrikes and what challenges they face when trying to get answers, recognition, and amends. They are joined by guest speakers Abdullahi Hassan (Researcher at Amnesty International), who investigates civilian harm in Somalia, and Bonyan Gamal (Accountability and Redress Officer at Mwatana for Human Rights), who investigates civilian harm in Yemen.

Both guest speakers talk about cases where their families were killed or injured by US airstrikes. They investigated several cases, collected evidence of civilian harm, and showed the evidence to the US. Even though this does not happen often, the US acknowledged that there were civilians killed in the case of Abdullahi Hassan. Bonyan Gamal confronted CENTCOM with twelve cases where 38 civilians were killed. CENTCOM acknowledged only one civilian death. However, the US remained silent after these acknowledgments.

Families who are victims of the US airstrikes want answers, an apology, and monetary compensation. Nevertheless, the US is not providing this. Families have more questions than answers. Another important question is: what is happening to the three million dollars a year that should go to the victims of US airstrikes? The US did not use a single dollar in 2020 to compensate the victims even though civilian causalities were acknowledged.

This post was written by IRW LAB student Cemre Açikgöz.