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Liesbeth Zegveld; Body Counts and Masking Wartime Violence, Journal of International Humanitarian Legal Studies 6





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This article is the transcript of the Peace Lecture held by Prof. Zegveld as part of the Peace Week, in Amsterdam in 2013. It critically addresses the fact that Western countries do not provide data on the numbers of civilian casualties their wars cause. Is this the consequence of a choice ‘not to do body counts’, or do some governments in fact monitor casualties, but not want the figures to be revealed? In any case, the absence of such data leads to a de facto denial of the existence of these victims. This translates into concrete difficulties for victims seeking accountability and compensation. This author argues that there is a legal obligation to register victim casualties, as well as a necessity to do so from democratic, military and moral perspectives. Civilian deaths (and injury) are a fully foreseen component of conflict. We can only truly evaluate our wars when the victim casualties are known.

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