UK paid average compensation of £2,380 for Afghan civilian deaths

Parents of one family received only £586 after the death of their son, aged 10

The British government has paid compensation for the deaths of 289 civilians in Afghanistan, including at least 16 children, according to official figures.

The study of internal Ministry of Defence documents shows overall, £688,000 ($945,000) was paid out by the British military for the deaths, an average of £2,380 for each.

The findings are from an analysis by charity Action on Armed Violence and relate to deaths in 189 incidents between 2006 and 2013.

About £397,000 was paid out for 240 injuries, at an average of £1,654, the charity said.

The ministry said the UK had always sought to minimise the risk of civilian casualties, through “rigorous targeting processes”.

Parents of one family received £586.42 after the death of their son, 10, in December 2009. Other claimants received higher payouts for damage to a crane and the loss of six donkeys.

In February 2008, a family was given only £104.17 for a confirmed death and property damage in Helmand province.

Most of the deaths occurred in Helmand, the site of some of the fiercest fighting involving UK forces, and were recorded in compensation payout data obtained under a Freedom of Information request.

In one December 2009 incident, the document listed four children “shot and killed by ISAF [International Security Assistance Force]”, with £4,223.60 paid in compensation a month later.

The youngest recorded casualty was a boy, 3, killed in December 2009 by “shock from a controlled explosion” during an operation to clear a bomb.

The files record the deaths of 16 children, the charity said, based on cases that either specified an age or described victims as a “child”, “boy” or “girl”.

But the true figure could be as high as 86 by including cases that mention the terms “son”, “daughter” or “nephew”, because Afghanistan has a population with a median age of 18.4.

“These files do not make for easy reading," said Murray Jones, the author of the report. "The banality of language means hundreds of tragic deaths, including dozens of children, read more like an inventory.

“Sadly, due to the way civilian casualties were recorded, these totals are likely to be just a fraction of the true number.”

The amount of compensation paid is determined by common law principles that include factors such as pain and suffering, along with financial loss.

The settlements also reflect local customs and practice, as well as economic factors.

They are in line with those of other countries that provided forces for the 20-year Afghan campaign led by the US, which ended in chaos with the evacuation from Kabul airport in August.

“Every civilian death is a tragedy and the UK always seeks to minimise the risk of civilian casualties through our rigorous targeting processes, but that risk can never be removed entirely," a ministry spokesman said.

“The amount of compensation paid is determined by legal principles, which consider the degree of injury and both past and future losses.”

Updated: September 23rd 2021, 9:35 PM