Iraq Body Count urgently needs your support to keep track of casualties - help us with a donation now


Press Release 5 23 Sep 2003

Over 1,500 violent civilian deaths in occupied Baghdad

The first definitive total of violent civilian deaths in Baghdad since mid April has been published by Iraq Body Count (IBC), an Anglo-American research group tracking media-reported civilian deaths occuring as a consequence of the US/UK military intervention in Iraq.

From April 14th to 31st August, 2,846 violent deaths were recorded by the Baghdad city morgue. When corrected for pre-war death rates in the city a total of at least 1,519 excess violent deaths in Baghdad emerges from reports based on the morgue's records.

IBC's latest study is the first comprehensive count to adjust for the comparable "background level" of deaths in Baghdad in recent pre-war times. It is therefore an estimate of additional deaths in the city directly attributable to the breakdown of law and order following the US takeover and occupation of Baghdad.1

1 IBC Records:

The study confirms the widespread anecdotal evidence that violence on the streets of Baghdad has skyrocketed, with the average daily death rate almost tripling since mid April from around 10 per day to over 28 per day during August.

Another worrying development is that during the pre-war period deaths from gunshot wounds accounted for approximately 10% of bodies brought to the morgue, but now account for over 60% of those killed. The small number of reports available for other cities indicate that these trends are being mirrored elsewhere in the country.

Although the majority of deaths are the result of Iraqi on Iraqi violence, some were directly caused by US military fire. There is evidence that these deaths, often from indiscriminate use of firepower, increasingly fail to be reported or remain unacknowledged by occupation forces. But responsibility for the current mayhem in Baghdad and elsewhere in Iraq is not diffused at the bottom - at the level of ordinary soldiers ill-suited for police-work in a hostile environment - but is concentrated at the top, in the air-conditioned corridors of power in Washington and London.

The Geneva Conventions and Hague Regulations, to which the US and UK are signatories, place the responsibility for ensuring public order and protecting the civilian population from violence on the occupying powers. UN Resolution 1483, which recognized the US/UK as the de facto occupying authority in Iraq, clearly bound them to these duties. But the US/UK are manifestly failing to fulfil them, compounding the death and destruction already unleashed by their invasion of Iraq. At the same time the US, in particular, resists any multilateral initiatives which would lead to an early end to its dominance over the country.

Meanwhile the latest reports from the nation's capital show that, as throughout the summer, the city's daily death toll continues to rise.

IBC researcher Hamit Dardagan said

"The US may be effective at waging war but the descent of Iraq's capital city into lawlessness under US occupation shows that it is incompetent at maintaining public order and providing security for the civilian population. The US has toppled Saddam and discovered that it won't be discovering any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. So why is it still there? And if the US military can't ensure the safety of Iraqi civilians and itself poses a danger to them, what is its role in that country?

"It is high time for the occupying authority to take serious steps towards an orderly hand-over of power and jurisdiction to Iraqis instead of making them junior partners in running their own country, and for the US/UK to stop requiring the international community to act as nothing more than a fig-leaf for US control of Iraq.

"Until they do, ordinary Iraqis may justifiably feel ungrateful for a 'liberation' that has removed the fear of Saddam but left them under military occupation and living in terror of their own streets."

[The numbers entered in the IBC Database for x132 are lower than the total of 1,519, but this is because some of the deaths included in this total were already published in the database. For more details see the accompanying Notes for the x132 series.]