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New Army Manual on Preventing Harm to Civilians

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Thursday, July 19, 2012 at 9:13 PM

Over at Forbes.com, the estimable Gregory McNeal has this article about a new Army manual on preventing harm to civilians. The just-released manual, entitled “Civilian Casualty Mitigation,” was the subject of this article last year by Spencer Ackerman. McNeal writes:

Today, the United States Army published what I believe is the first military manual aimed solely at preventing and mitigating harm to civilians in combat.  The manual, entitled Army Tactics, Techniques, and Procedures 3-37.31, Civilian Casualty Mitigation (CIVCAS Manual for short) is the result of a year long project led by Colonel (Ret.) Dwight Raymond of the Army’s Peacekeeping and Stability Operations Institute.  The project received strong support from General Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The CIVCAS Manual moves beyond a strict law of armed conflict mindset, to an approach that integrates civilian casualty mitigation principles across the spectrum of routine and pre-deployment training, doctrine and education.  The manual is intended to provide the doctrinal guidance and direction necessary for Army units to minimize harm to civilians, and when such harm occurs, to provide guidance about how to manage the consequences of that harm. While the manual is intended for use by the Army, it was drafted with input from other branches of the armed forces, members of foreign armed forces and civilian experts from NGOs and the legal academy (full disclosure: I provided some input on an early draft of the manual and hosted some of the manual’s authors at my law school).

The manual builds on lessons learned from the military’s experience in all contemporary conflicts, especially those in Afghanistan and Iraq, and draws on lessons detailed in the Joint CIVCAS Study.  The CIVCAS Manual is intended in part to remedy some of the serious deficiencies noted in the Joint CIVCAS Study, which examined the causes of civilian harm and recommended techniques to prevent civilian casualties during combat.  That inquiry was a research effort combining external academic rigor with professional military expertise to create the first comprehensive assessment of civilian protection.  Writing the Foreword to the Joint CIVCAS Study, then General David H. Petraeus noted that avoiding civilian casualties “is a central operational challenge in Afghanistan and Iraq and it will be a challenge in any future conflict as well.”  One of the key recommendations of the Joint CIVCAS Study was that the military must develop a handbook for civilian casualty response, the CIVCAS Manual aims to fill that doctrinal gap.

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