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Presentation made to a panel discussion on "Civilian Deaths in Iraq: Quantitative Estimates and Policy Implications," held at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP), Washington DC, 10 Jan 2007.

How accurate is IBC?

  • Each IBC entry records deaths that really happened
  • IBC has not recorded all deaths, therefore its total is an undercount
  • But IBC and other counting systems may not be as "huge" an undercount as Lancet figures suggest
  • The most frequent criticisms of IBC are misplaced

State of Knowledge slide 7

We corroborate deaths from multiple sources. This ensures a high degree of accuracy and witness verification. The accuracy of our individual entries has rarely been challenged. Indeed, no-one has credibly claimed that we have compiled deaths which have not happened.

Recent public debate has rather focused on the number of deaths we don’t record, and how much of an undercount that might be. Our own view is that the current death toll could be around twice the numbers recorded by IBC and the various official sources in Iraq. We do not think it could possibly be 10 times higher.

Those who suggest that the IBC data-base is likely to contain only a tiny minority of actual deaths generally argue three things. First, they say that IBC only records deaths in areas where Western journalists are present; second they propose that there have been at least seven credible studies which suggest up to ten times as many deaths as we have recorded; and third they assert that an alternate media world exists containing a professional Arab-language press which continually reports far more deaths than the sources we monitor in English.

We have dealt with the first two claims in detail on the public record and will be happy to answer questions about them in the discussion.1 2