By Muhammad Mussa
LONDON (AA) - The UK armed forces compensated Afghan civilians only $940,657 for 289 civilian deaths between 2006 and 2014, an average of $3,254 per family.
Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a charity organization that analyses and scrutinizes the Ministry of Defence for the killing of innocent civilians in conflicts and war zones, analyzed up to 7,000 compensation claims paid by the military during operations in the southern Afghan province of Helmand.
“The fact that a charity has had to scrutinise this data, rather than the British military themselves, is hugely concerning. So few of these deaths were reported on at the time that these casualties could easily be forgotten," said Murray Jones, a representative from the AOAV.
One case discovered by AOAV, however, brought military criticism and condemnation as one family was paid a measly $142.42, far less than what other families received for the death of an animal as opposed to a family member or friend. It is the lowest recorded payment for a civilian death.
The Ministry of Defence, however, has defended its compensation scheme for Afghan civilians, arguing that its calculation is determined by legal principles which take into account the nature and degree of the injury as well past and future losses. The settlements, according to the MoD reflect local practices and customs.
"Every civilian death is a tragedy and the UK always seeks to minimise the risk of civilian casualties through our rigorous targeting process, but that risk can never be removed entirely," a spokesperson from the ministry said in a statement.
Despite a statement from the MoD regarding the number of civilian deaths, AOAV said that the number published by the ministry is an “underestimation” and that the number is higher.
"It's likely that the deaths recorded are an underestimation of deaths caused by British forces."
A total of 289 civilians died at the hands of the British military in Helmand from 2006 to 2014. The youngest casualty was a three-year-old boy who was killed by shock during a mine clearance operation by UK forces. Sixteen children were among the 289 civilian deaths.