ALERT – 11 Belgian and international CSOs to Belgian government: increase transparency and accountability F16s in Iraq/Syria | September 29, 2020

logo of the 11 signatories of the appeal to Belgian Defense on F16

At the eve of a new military deployment of four Belgian F16 fighter jets in Iraq and Syria, 11 Belgian and international organisations* urge the Belgian government to take immediate steps to improve its level of transparency and accountability for potential civilian casualties. On October 1st, 2020, Belgium will send four F-16s to Iraq and […]

At the eve of a new military deployment of four Belgian F16 fighter jets in Iraq and Syria, 11 Belgian and international organisations* urge the Belgian government to take immediate steps to improve its level of transparency and accountability for potential civilian casualties.

On October 1st, 2020, Belgium will send four F-16s to Iraq and Northeast Syria to participate in Operation “Inherent Resolve” against lslamic State, for a period of 12 months.

Least transparent country

Photo of a Belgian F-16 on the military base in Jordan, photo Christian Decloedt & Malek Azoug for Belgian Ministry of Defence (2017).
Photo of a Belgian F-16 on the military base in Jordan, photo Christian Decloedt & Malek Azoug for Belgian Ministry of Defence (2017).

According to international monitoring group Airwars, Belgium has been one of the least transparent countries in the International Coalition against Islamic State, and there are no accountability mechanisms in place for potential civilian casualties. Therefore, 11 Belgian and international organisations have urged the Belgian government to immediately improve its poor track record in this regard.

In a letter sent to Minister of Defence Goffin on 21 September 2020, they have asked the government to take a number of concrete steps, including:

  1. Publish the exact date and near location of all Belgian air raids carried out in the fight against Islamic State;
  2. Publish the results of all investigations into civilian casualties – including the data, location, targets and number of civilian casualties of military action;
  3. Work together with external parties, including NGOs, by drawing up standards for the minimum criteria that external claims for civilian victims must meet in order for the Ministry of Defence to be able to assess them;
  4. Introduce or support a mechanism where potential victims of Coalition bombardments can come forward and report issues of concern;

Parliamentary call

Belgian and international organisations are not alone in asking the government to be more transparent about the deployment of F16s in Iraq and Syria. In a motion adopted on 25 June 2020 the Belgian parliament requested the government to demonstrate “maximum transparency” on potential civilian casualties, while also asking to “ensure active cooperation and exchange with external monitoring groups and human rights organizations.

The undersigning organizations urge the Belgian government to heed this parliamentary call, and stand ready to actively and constructively work together to improve Belgium’s poor transparency and accountability record.

Belgium should follow the example of other Coalition allies, like the US and the Netherlands, in their improving their reporting of military actions and any associated civilian harm. If there are civilian casualties, the Belgian Ministry of Defence needs to take responsibility,” says Airwars Deputy Director Dmytro Chupryna. ”This collective statement urges the Belgian military to improve transparency and accountability for military actions moving forward, so the consequences for local populations can never be hidden from the public”, the 11 organisations conclude.

The full letter to minister Goffin can be read here.

 


* 11.11.11, Agir pour la Paix, Airwars, Amnesty International Belgium, CNAPD, GRIP, Humanity & Inclusion, Oxfam in België, Pax Christi Flanders, Vredesactie and Vrede vzw.


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