Today Human Rights Watch releases a new report on the civilian lives lost in the Iraq War because of two American tactics: The use of cluster munitions in populated areas caused more civilian casualties than any other factor in the coalition´s conduct of major military operations in March and April, Human Rights Watch said. U.S. and British forces used almost 13,000 cluster munitions, containing nearly 2 million submunitions, that killed or wounded more than 1,000 civilians. Meanwhile, 50 strikes on top Iraqi leaders failed to kill any of the intended targets, but instead killed dozens of civilians, the Human Rights Watch report revealed. The U.S. “decapitation” strategy relied on intercepts of senior Iraqi leaders´ satellite phone calls along with corroborating intelligence that proved inadequate. As a result, the U.S. military could only locate targets within a 100-meter radius – clearly inadequate precision in civilian neighborhoods. “Coalition forces generally tried to avoid killing Iraqis who weren´t taking part in combat,” said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. “But the deaths of hundreds of civilians still could have been prevented.” International humanitarian law, or the laws of war, does not outlaw all civilian casualties in wartime. But armed forces are obliged to take all feasible precautions for avoiding civilian losses, and to refrain from attacks that are indiscriminate or where the expected civilian harm exceeds the military gain.


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