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Watchdog Finds Alarming Civilian Casualties Caused by UK Troops in Afghan, Iraq

© AP Photo / Altaf QadriUK, US deploy troops in Afghanistan
UK, US deploy troops in Afghanistan - Sputnik International
LONDON (Sputnik) - Reports on civilian deaths at the hands of UK troops in Afghanistan and Iraq raise concern as they violate international humanitarian law (IHL), but come as no surprise, the Arab Organisation for Human Rights in the United Kingdom (AOHRUK) told Sputnik.

"It definitely is something our organisation is aware of. We are not surprised by this latest investigation although it is extremely alarming. There is not much in place to get justice for such instances […] Unfortunately, this seems to be something that is quite commonplace," AOHRUK researcher Hannah Phillips said, referring to the allegations made by the media outlet.

The human rights watchdog noted that London should have taught and trained military personnel to comply with international humanitarian law in order to prevent such incidents.

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"Unfortunately what we've seen is that there isn't any completely neutral body able to investigate such claims. The fact we've had no British soldiers that have been convicted through the Iraq Historic Allegations Team before it was closed down, demonstrates a complete neglect when it comes to adhering to international humanitarian law on the part of the British justice system and government more widely", Phillips underlined.

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The London-based Middle East Eye (MEE) media outlet published last week what it claimed were extensive allegations regarding the conduct of British Armed Forces in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Citing unnamed sources that had allegedly served with UK forces during the invasion to the both countries, the outlet said that British soldiers at times were allowed to "shoot anyone seen holding a mobile telephone, carrying a shovel, or acting in any way suspiciously".

The UK Defense Ministry declined to comment.

Under Additional Protocol II to the 1977 amendments to the Geneva Conventions, civilians lose their protected status when they actively engage in hostilities with any participant in a zone of an armed conflict.

READ MORE: Afghan Journalist: UK Troops Deployment Raises Mission Effectiveness Questions

Likewise, buildings and infrastructure of an evidently civilian nature loses that same protected status when used by combatants for military purposes, such as using a school house to barrack troops or converting a tower bloc into an armed observation post. In both instances, the previously civilian nature of the target is rescinded and can be targeted at will.

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In the case of the British Army in Iraq and Afghanistan, however, critics have stressed that such legal stipulations may not have been applied with sufficient rigor, with alleged "dickers"- itself an army term for civilians suspected of carrying out surveillance of NATO troops on behalf of native insurgents, being fired upon without due regard for their potential civilian status.

The end result may have involved UK soldiers engaging suspected insurgents before the nature of their activity had been properly ascertained.

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