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Last updated: January 2021

The common analysis below regarding the degree of indiscriminate violence taking place in the different governorates of Iraq combines quantitative and qualitative elements in a holistic and inclusive assessment.

The indicators applied are formulated in reference to the ECtHR judgment in Sufi and Elmi:

(…) first, whether the parties to the conflict were either employing methods and tactics of warfare which increased the risk of civilian casualties or directly targeting civilians; secondly, whether the use of such methods and/or tactics was widespread among the parties to the conflict; thirdly, whether the fighting was localised or widespread; and finally, the number of civilians killed, injured and displaced as a result of the fighting.[37]

These indicators are further developed and adapted in order to be applied as a general approach to assessing the element of ‘indiscriminate violence’, irrespective of the country of origin in question.

The security situation in the respective states is assessed by taking into account the following elements:

o Presence of actors in the conflict

This indicator looks into the presence of actors in the conflict in the respective governorate.

o Number of methods and tactics

The methods and tactics used in the armed conflicts ongoing in Iraq differ according to the actors involved. Some acts are by their nature more indiscriminate than others and create a more substantial risk for civilians.

ISIL are particularly known to use methods which are of indiscriminate nature, such as (suicide) bombings and attacks on whole villages.
The State actors tend to use methods and tactics of more targeted nature; however, they may also (indiscriminately) affect civilians, such as in the case of airstrikes and shelling.
o Number of incidents 
The number of security incidents is an important indicator, pointing to the existence of an armed conflict in the meaning of Article 15(c) QD and to intensity of hostilities in a certain area. In relation to this indicator, data collected by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) and by United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) are consistently presented per governorate.
ACLED collects data on several types of violent incidents in Iraq: battles, violence against civilians, explosions/remote violence, riots, protests, strategic developments. Each incident is coded with the time and place, type of violent incident, the parties involved, and the number of fatalities. The COI summaries per governorate focus in particular on the number of incidents coded as follows:
Battles: violent clashes between at least two armed groups.
Battles can occur between armed and organised State, non-State, and external groups, and in any combination therein. Sub-events of battles are armed clashes, government regains territory and non-State actor overtakes territory.
Explosions/remote violence: events where an explosion, bomb or other explosive device was used to engage in conflict.
They include one-sided violent events in which the tool for engaging in conflict creates asymmetry by taking away the ability of the target to engage or defend themselves and their location. These include air/drone strikes, suicide bombs, shelling/artillery/missile attack, remote explosive/landmine/IED, grenade, chemical weapon.
Violence against civilians: violent events where an organised armed group deliberately inflicts violence upon unarmed non-combatants.
It includes violent attacks on unarmed civilians such as sexual violence, attacks, abduction/forced disappearance.
Riots: violent demonstrations, often involving a spontaneous action by unorganized, unaffiliated members of society.
It also includes mob violence.
UNAMI data focuses on armed conflict-related incidents, which have directly impacted on civilians (causing civilian casualties) and on the civilian nature of property and protected areas (such as, civilian houses, cropland, schools, health facilities and mosque)
For further information on the data, see Security situation 2020.
In order to provide an indication of the relative intensity of incidents, the number of security incidents is furthermore presented as a weekly average for the reference period (1st January 2019 – 31 July 2020).

o Geographical scope

This element looks into how widespread the violence is within the area, highlighting the districts which are particularly affected by indiscriminate violence and/or the districts which are relatively less affected.

Where the conflict severity varies within an area, the place of origin of the applicant could constitute an important element to consider in the assessment. The higher the level of indiscriminate violence in the respective place, the less additional individual elements would be required in order to apply Article 15(c) QD.

o Civilian casualties

This is considered a key indicator when assessing (the level of) indiscriminate violence in the context of Article 15(c) QD.
The data used for this indicator consistently refers to the number of civilian casualties (deaths and injuries) in armed conflict related incidents in each governorate, as recorded by UNAMI from 1st January 2019 until 31 July 2020. The reported number of casualties is further weighted by the population of the governorate and presented as ‘number of civilian casualties per 100 000 inhabitants’.

o Displacement

This element refers to conflict-induced (internal) displacement from and within the governorate, as well as to returns to the governorate.
In addition to the indicators above, some examples of further impact of the armed conflicts on the life of civilians are mentioned and taken into account in the assessment.
None of the indicators above would be sufficient by itself to assess the level of indiscriminate violence and the risk it creates for the civilian population in a particular area. Therefore, a holistic approach has been applied, taking into account all different elements.
It should, furthermore, be noted that the COI used as a basis for this assessment cannot be considered a complete representation of the extent of indiscriminate violence and its impact on the life of civilians. Concerns with regard to underreporting should be underlined.


[37] Sufi and Elmi, para.241. [back to text]