Department of National Defence statement on Jan. 21 airstrike in Mosul, Iraq
Here are the questions posed by CBC's the fifth estate and the answers provided by the Department of National Defence on the issue of a Pentagon report that suggests a Canadian airstrike near Mosul, Iraq on Jan. 21, 2015 may have led to civilian casualties.
the fifth estate: Please provide more specifics about the information that was provided by the source of the allegation.
Department of National Defence: As this particular review was led by U.S. Central Command, for any further information, please contact U.S. Central Command Public Affairs.
the fifth estate: How was it determined through the review that all of the targets hit that day were enemy combatants?
DND: The Coalition Headquarters conducted a review of all available reliable imagery and video. The review uncovered no evidence of civilian casualties. Furthermore, it was re-confirmed that the target struck by Canada was a valid military objective from which ISIS was firing a heavy machine gun (HMG) at Iraqi Kurdish troops. The area in question is still within ISIS-held territory in Iraq.
As this particular review was led by U.S. Central Command, for any further information please contact U.S. Central Command Public Affairs. In addition, the CAF thoroughly reviews all completed Canadian airstrikes. The CAF review identified that there were no substantive grounds to believe that civilians had been killed. Furthermore, subsequent to the allegations, there was no information from the Iraqi Security Forces or government suggesting there may have been civilian casualties.
CAF members undergo significant training and take all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of inadvertently harming civilians in the conduct of military operations.
As stated in previous Op IMPACT Technical Briefings, the CAF has no confirmation of civilian casualties as a result of CF-18 airstrikes during Operation IMPACT.
the fifth estate: We have obtained information that includes more details about the coalition investigation into that event. That information includes a quote from CENTCOM describing the Canadian position on the investigation: "It should be noted that CJOC Legad opinion is that, under the Law of Armed Conflict (LDAC), there are no obligations for the CAF to conduct an investigation." Can you explain why Canada holds this opinion?
DND: The Law of Armed Conflict, as embodied in the Geneva Conventions and the Additional Protocols to the Geneva Conventions, does not create a positive duty to investigate per se. In a broad sense, the Law of Armed Conflict and other applicable law create a general duty to report to competent authorities if there are indications that a breach may have occurred. If warranted this reporting may result in an investigation. One of the primary purposes of the Law of Armed Conflict is to establish a framework to limit a conflict's impact on civilians by requiring Commanders to do everything feasible to verify that only military objects are struck and that the incidental loss of civilian life is not disproportionate to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.
The attack on the ISIL fighting position in January 2015 was conducted in response to ISIL firing on friendly forces from that position. The fighting position's status as a legitimate military target has been confirmed by a thorough review process. At no time has there been any assertion that the Law of Armed Conflict had been breached. As to the uncorroborated information about possible civilian casualties resulting from this attack, the information was reported and reviewed by the appropriate coalition organization and CJOC. The source of this allegation heard of these potential casualties through a second hand account. The Minister of National Defence at the time was informed. The review identified that there were no substantive grounds to believe that civilians had been killed.
The Canadian Armed Forces remains committed to ensuring its conduct complies with its obligations under international and domestic law.
the fifth estate: Can you also please tell us if Canadian Armed Forces are either involved in (or aware of) any other allegations of civilian casualties that could involve Canadian forces (either Canadian airstrikes or Canadian Special Forces)?
DND: The Canadian Armed Forces is unaware of any additional allegations of civilian casualties involving CF-18 airstrikes or CANSOF personnel beyond the uncorroborated information about possible civilian casualties as a result of an airstrike on January 21, 2015, which, upon review, identified that there were no substantive grounds to believe that civilians had been killed.
Any agency with information that would indicate potential civilian casualties, or aid in clarifying existing allegations, is encouraged to provide it to the CAF so that it may pursue it with the Coalition.
The CAF thoroughly reviews all completed airstrikes. CAF members undergo significant training and take all feasible precautions to reduce the risk of inadvertently harming civilians in the conduct of military operations.
As stated in previous Op IMPACT Technical Briefings, the CAF has no indications of civilian casualties as a result of CF-18 airstrikes during Operation IMPACT.
the fifth estate: Was the Peshmerga soldier interviewed as part of the coalition investigation? And if so, what did he say?
DND: Information on investigations into civilian casualties is available from the coalition through the US Central Command Headquarters based in Tampa, Florida. The coalition maintains a registry of all allegations in the event that evidence should come to light to enable further investigation