MoD faces Afghan civilian death pay-outs

Author: By Andrew Woodcock, Press Association

And compensation claims have been rejected in a further 113 cases in Helmand
province, where UK forces are leading the fight against the Taliban.

The figures covering December 2007 to May 2009 are revealed in documents
released by the MoD in response to a Freedom of Information request by
Channel 4 News.

The documents show that payouts in cases involving fatalities over the period
total around 200,000 US dollars (£120,000), and range from 210 dollars for
the death of a woman to 39,792 dollars for an incident involving “multiple
fatalities, injuries and property” in Lashkar Gah province in October last
year.

In Musa Qaleh, in summer 2007, an incident allegedly involving the deaths of
five adults and 15 children resulted in a claim for over 100,000 dollars,
which was rejected. The following year, the deaths of two children in the
same town resulted in a payout of 10,000.

In a statement, the Ministry of Defence said: “Compensation claims brought
against British forces working as part of the International Security
Assistance Force are considered on the basis of whether the MoD has a legal
liability to pay compensation. Where there is a proven legal liability
compensation is paid.

“Despite every effort to target only insurgents, there are times when the
ordinary people of Afghanistan are inadvertently harmed.

“We are deeply saddened by any civilian deaths and we particularly regret
incidents where civilians are harmed as a result of actions by international
forces. Even one death is one too many.”

Defence minister Bill Rammell rejected suggestions that the figures revealed
only the tip of a much larger iceberg.

Mr Rammell told Channel 4: “We are engaged in a hearts and minds exercise.
Wanting to do everything we can to avoid civilian casualties is not only a
moral view, but a practical and political view. If we want to take people
with us, we need to ensure we are doing that.”

He added: “We go out of our way to advertise the opportunities for
compensation.

“I hugely regret any civilian casualties, but we are engaged in an
increasingly difficult battle with the Taliban. We are there under a United
Nations mandate as part of a coalition of 41 countries.

“We are actually there with the support of the Afghan Government and its
people. The last independent opinion poll I saw still showed a large
majority of ordinary Afghanis saying that they wanted the international
presence there, because they are terrified out of their wits about what the
Taliban would do to them.”

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