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


Many experts and expert groups from a range of fields are attempting to combine their knowledge to understand the lethality to Iraqis of the invasion and post-invasion violence in Iraq.

This is a slightly abridged and amended version of an invited "meta-analysis" of IBC's potential contribution to that understanding, presented in a closed meeting of the Ad Hoc Expert Group on mortality estimates for Iraq, convened by WHO in Geneva, May 2007.

The UK Government view

“IBC is an estimate relying on media reports, and which we do not regard as reliable… the most reliable figures for casualties in Iraq are those provided by Iraqi hospitals to the Iraqi Ministry of Health.”

Written ministerial statement responding to a study on Iraqi mortality figures published in ‘The Lancet’ (17/11/04).

The above statement from the UK government, unsupported by any further “on the record” reasoning, is indicative of how little understanding there is, particularly among those who should make it their business to know, of what media reports are capable of offering towards a full accounting of the death toll in Iraq since the 2003 invasion.

This presentation offers some preliminary analyses which test key assumptions about the reliability of press and media reports, their strengths and weaknesses. These analyses allow us to conclude that:

  1. Media reports are more complete in their reporting of casualties in Iraq than might be supposed from a superficial overview, and
  2. Under-reported or unreported events are likely to be those where small numbers (3 or less) are killed