Trump Administration Stalls on Required Civilian Casualty Reports
Washington D.C.—Today Human Rights First expressed disappointment with the Trump Administration for failing to meet its deadline for submission of two reports on civilian casualties, both of which were due yesterday. The organization notes that the failure of the administration to deliver these critical reports shows a troubling lack of commitment to transparency and reducing civilian casualties. Yesterday it was reported that the Trump Administration has asked for more time to submit the required report to Congress and is considering modifying, or even rescinding, the 2016 executive order that requires the government to publicly release another set of statistics on civilian casualties.
“Robust transparency on civilian casualties is in the national security interest of the United States. Watering down or rescinding the executive order would be a huge mistake and send a terrible signal that the United States doesn’t care about protecting civilians from harm,” said Human Rights First’s Rita Siemion. “Transparency enhances the legitimacy of U.S. actions by enabling the United States to broadcast successes; restore credibility when mistakes occur; and correct erroneous allegations of civilian casualties that fuel enemy propaganda and recruitment, and can turn allies, partners, and local populations against the United States.”
One of the reports due yesterday was mandated in a 2016 executive order, which requires the government to publicly release statistics on civilian casualties in areas deemed “outside of active hostilities.” The second report is mandated as part of the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that was signed into law by President Trump last year. The NDAA requires that the administration provide Congress with a report on all U.S. military operations that were “confirmed, or reasonably suspected to have resulted in civilian casualties” in the preceding year.
“The White House’s failure to comply with the 2016 executive order aimed at reducing harm to civilians is an affront to the rule of law, human rights, and a dangerous development for our nation’s security,” added Siemion. “Failing to provide adequate information to the public and to Congress about U.S. operations overseas undercuts the Pentagon’s efforts to reduce harm to civilians and to maintain credibility with local populations.”
Human Rights First has long-advocated for presidential administrations to increase transparency regarding civilian casualties and the use of force. Yesterday marked the first time that the Trump Administration has been subject to the executive order and to the annual report mandated by the NDAA.