Whether in Syria, Afghanistan or Yemen, civilians are always the first casualties of war. And governments have become very skilled at shifting blame and responsibility.

In Syria, where a host of different countries with different agendas are taking military action, the high civilian death rate has fuelled an unprecedented refugee crisis.

Since joining the fray, Russia has come under sustained attack from the US, the UK and others, who say Russian air strikes may have killed hundreds of civilians already. And also risk fuelling more violence and radicalisation.

But it’s not just Russia. The US was criticised earlier this month when, a day after criticising Moscow, it bombed an Afghan hospital run by Doctors Without Borders, killing 22 patients and doctors. For years, the US has been conducting a covert drone war that is estimated to have killed thousands of civilians.

So who holds states accountable for killing non-combatants? And how do they try to avoid blame and responsibility for those deaths?


Presenter: Jane Dutton 


Jeremy Scahill - Co-founder of 'The Intercept' and Author of 'The Drone Papers', a piece that examines the effect of warfare on civilians' lives. 

Nadim Houry - Human Rights Watch Deputy-Director for the Middle East and North Africa. 

Tom Simpson - Associate Professor at the University of Oxford. He researches military ethics.

Source: Al Jazeera