In an effort to find a common approach to deal with the tragedy of civilian casualties, NATO nations have agreed on a set of guidelines which have now been promulgated to the Chain of Command. These guidelines reflect the efforts NATO/ISAF is making to reduce the impact of the conflict on the people of Afghanistan. The centre of gravity of NATO’s mission remains the Afghan people, and ISAF does everything within its power to avoid harming civilians. When combat-related civilian casualties or damage to civilian property occur, NATO/ ISAF considers that easing civilian suffering is of tremendous importance. In Afghanistan, the pain of losing a family member can also have financial implications, which could be eased through payments. Afghans have made it clear that payments to the families of civilian casualties is a culturally-appropriate response to combat-related civilian death or damage to private property. For this reason, NATO nations have agreed on the following set of non-binding policy guidelines for when they deal with cases of civilian combat-related casualties.
- Promptly acknowledge combat-related cases of civilian casualties or damage to civilian property.
- Continue to fully implement the ISAF standard operating procedures for investigating possible cases of civilian casualties, or damage to civilian property, and endeavour to provide the necessary information to the ISAF civilian casualties tracking cell.
- Proactively offer assistance for civilian casualty cases or damages to civilian property, in order to mitigate human suffering to the extent possible. Examples of assistance could include ex-gratia payments or in-kind assistance, such as medical treatment, the replacement of animals or crops, and the like.
- Offers of such assistance, where appropriate, should be discussed with, and coordinated through, village elders or alternative tribal structures, as well as district-level government authorities, whenever possible. Assistance should also, where possible, be coordinated with other responsible civilian actors on the ground.
- Offering and providing such assistance should take into account the best way to limit any further security risk to affected civilians and ISAF/PRT personnel.
- Local customs and norms vary across Afghanistan and should be fully taken into account when determining the appropriate response to a particular incident, including for potential ex-gratia payments.
- Personnel working to address cases of civilian casualties or damage to civilian property should be accessible, particularly, subject to security considerations, in conflict-affected areas, and local communities made fully aware of the investigation and payment process.
- The system by which payments are determined and made should be as simple, prompt and transparent as possible and involve the affected civilians at all points feasible.
- Payments are made and in-kind assistance is provided without reference to the question of legal liability.