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Casualty recording

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Dec 16, 2021

Casualty recording is the systematic and continuous process of documenting individual direct deaths from armed conflict or widespread violence. It aims to create a comprehensive account of all deaths within a determined scope, usually bound by time and location.

Systematic and continuous process of documenting individual direct deaths from armed conflict or violence
Nyanza Genocide Memorial Site, monument listing names of victims

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At minimum, casualty recording typically involves documenting the date and location of a violent incident; the number of people killed; the means of violence or category of weapon used; and the party responsible.[1][2] Casualty recording differs from casualty tracking by military actors to track the effects of their operations on the civilian population for the purpose of improving their procedures and reducing civilian casualties.[3]

A defining feature of casualty recording is that it is victim-centric and seeks to establish the identity of every fatality including name, age, sex, and other relevant demographic details.[1] Where relevant to the conflict context, this may also include ethnicity and religious or political affiliation. However, depending on the aims and resources of the organisation conducting the recording, a particular initiative may record only a specific subset of deaths. Subsets may include, for example, deaths caused by a specific belligerent or weapons type, or deaths of a particular segment of the population, such as children.

Casualty recording focuses on documenting direct deaths from armed violence. It does not normally include deaths caused by the indirect or reverberating effects of conflict.[4] Some casualty recording initiatives document injuries as well as deaths. Casualty records may overlap with, or operate in conjunction with, records of persons who have gone missing during a conflict or period of violence.[5]

Practitioners have different aims and motivations for conducting casualty recording. Typically these are grounded in considerations relating to international humanitarian law or human rights law.[6][7] Casualty records have also been used to support some humanitarian disarmament initiatives.[8]

The purported aims of casualty records include:

  • Recognising the dignity and rights of victims and their families, including the right to life and the right to the truth.[7] This work often overlaps with efforts to trace missing people in situations of armed conflict.
  • Supporting accountability and peace building processes including memorialisation, transitional justice and criminal prosecutions for war crimes or crimes against humanity.[9] These activities can play an important role in reducing cycles of violence and promoting community reconciliation.
  • Supporting the protection of civilians by providing information to reduce unintended consequences of military activities and improve humanitarian response planning.[10][11][12]
  • Informing media reporting and policy makers on conflict dynamics.[13]
  • Informing, monitoring and improving protection measures aimed at specific populations affected by armed violence including children, women, persons with disabilities, journalists, health workers and older persons.[8][14]
  • Enabling victims’ families to receive reparation, compensation and access to services, as well as inheritance rights.[15]
  • Identifying the unintended and unacceptable harm to civilians caused by the use of certain weapons. Casualty data on anti-personnel landmines and cluster munitions helped drive international efforts to ban these weapons, and information on the effects of explosive weapons in populated areas is informing efforts to curb their use.[16][17]
Memorial of victims of Kosovo war

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. . . Casualty recording . . .