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IBC has been collecting a range of associated data - including demographics, perpetrators, weapons - with the tragic deaths it records. This store of detailed information - already immense by 2008 - has allowed researchers to obtain unique analyses of the facts and consequences of the Iraq conflict's impact on civilians.

This study, co-authored with members of the IBC team, includes a first robust analysis that includes perpetrator categories.

New study: Analysis by perpetrator, weapon, time, and location (2003-2008)

16 February 2011

A peer-reviewed study, Violent Deaths of Iraqi Civilians, 2003–2008: Analysis by Perpetrator, Weapon, Time, and Location, published in this week’s issue of PLoS Medicine provides the most detailed assessment thus far of civilian deaths in the course of the recent Iraq war. Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks from King’s College London, and colleagues analysed data from Iraq Body Count, a nongovernmental project that collates media reports of deaths of individual Iraqi civilians and cross-checks these reports with data from hospitals, morgues, nongovernmental organisations, and official figures.

The authors studied 92,614 Iraqi civilian direct deaths from the IBC database which occurred as a result of armed violence between March 20, 2003 through March 19, 2008. The authors found that most Iraqi civilian violent deaths during this time were inflicted by unknown perpetrators, primarily through extrajudicial executions which were disproportionately increased in Iraqi governorates with greater numbers of violent deaths. Unknown perpetrators also used suicide bombs, vehicle bombs, and mortars which had highly lethal and indiscriminate effects on Iraqi civilians. Deaths caused by Coalition forces of Iraqi civilians, of women and children, and of Iraqi civilians from air attacks, peaked during the invasion in 2003.

Detailed analysis of civilian deaths during wars can improve the understanding of the impact on vulnerable subgroups in the population, such as women and children. In order to assess this impact further, the researchers calculated the proportion of women and children among civilian deaths identified as men, women or children. This proportion is termed the “Dirty War Index” (DWI), and indicates the scale of indiscriminate killing in a conflict. The most indiscriminate effects on women and children in Iraq were from unknown perpetrators firing mortars (DWI = 79) and using non-suicide vehicle bombs (DWI = 54), and from Coalition air attacks (DWI = 69). Coalition forces had a higher DWI than anti-coalition forces for all weapons combined, and for small arms gunfire, with no decrease over the study period.

The authors conclude that “Our findings on civilian deaths from perpetrators and their weapons during 5 years of the Iraq war illustrate the feasibility as well as the public health and humanitarian potential of detailed tracking of war’s effects on a civilian population.”

Journal Reference:

Madelyn Hsiao-Rei Hicks, Hamit Dardagan, Gabriela Guerrero Serdán, Peter M. Bagnall, John A. Sloboda, Michael Spagat. Violent Deaths of Iraqi Civilians, 2003–2008: Analysis by Perpetrator, Weapon, Time, and Location. PLoS Medicine, 2011; 8 (2): e1000415 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000415