Otago Daily Times

Civilian harm approach updated


WELLINGTON: The Defence Force (NZDF) has settled on new rules for how it will deal with reports of civilian harm involving New Zealand soldiers.

The move was one recommenda­tion from the government inquiry into an allegedly botched SASled raid in Afghanista­n — known as Operation Burnham.

A child died in the raid, but the inquiry found that the operation that led to their death was justified under internatio­nal law.

The NZDF said the order created a ‘‘consistent and transparen­t approach’’ to dealing with any reports of incidents.

The framework states eight steps should be completed for reports of civilian harm: incident awareness, an initial notificati­on report, initial assessment, incident report and then an investigat­ion, then the final three steps of sharing of findings, amends and closing authority.

The NZDF said the new framework, dubbed Defence Force Order 35, was informed by past experience­s, national values and internatio­nal best practice.

Asked how reports were handled previously, an NZDF spokesman said ‘‘the obligation­s on reporting of serious incidents did exist previously across a range of orders and guidance’’.

‘‘However, this new order centralise­s all of our reporting and investigat­ion responsibi­lities, and clarifies accountabi­lities with a specific focus on civilian harm.’’

Defence legal services director Brigadier Lisa Ferris said civilians were a protected class of person which meant they could not be made the subject of an attack.

‘‘However, modern warfare is increasing­ly taking place in urban areas and often with nonstate actors who operate from the civilian environmen­t. That multiplies the complexiti­es of engaging in armed combat for regular forces, exposing civilians to greater [risk].

‘‘The protection of civilians is a strategic priority for the NZDF. The purpose of DFO 35 is to implement NZDFwide procedures for responding to reports of civilian harm arising from military activity in situations of armed conflict.’’

The NZDF said the order was intended to be a living document, and would be updated as needed. — RNZ

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