MORE than one million Iraqis have died because of the war in Iraq since the US-led invasion of the country in 2003, according to a study published on Wednesday.
A fifth of Iraqi households lost at least one family member between March 2003 and August 2007 due to the conflict, said data compiled by London-based Opinion Research Business (ORB) and its research partner in Iraq, the Independent Institute for Administration and Civil Society Studies (IIACSS).
The study based its findings on survey work involving the face-to-face questioning of 2,414 Iraqi adults aged 18 or above, and the last complete census in Iraq in 1997, which indicated a total of 4.05 million households.
Respondents were asked how many members of their household, if any, had died as a result of the violence in the country since 2003, and not because of natural causes.
‘We now estimate that the death toll between March 2003 and August 2007 is likely to have been in the order of 1,033,000,’ ORB said in a statement.
The margin of error for the survey was 1.7 per cent, making the estimated range between 946,000 and 1.12 million fatalities.
The highest rate of deaths throughout the country occurred in Baghdad, where more than 40 per cent of households had lost a family member.
According to a July 2007 estimate by the United States, Iraq’s population is around 27 million.
The country has been wracked by conflict since the US-led March 2003 invasion, with United Nations estimates putting the number of displaced people from the conflict at more than four million, nearly half of which have fled to neighbouring countries.
A small number of those refugees have begun returning to Iraq – around 20,000 arrived from Syria in December – the Iraqi Red Crescent said earlier this month.
Meanwhile, the US Army has opened a criminal investigation into an allegation of ‘battlefield deaths’ of detainees captured by a US brigade that operated last year in southwest Baghdad, an army spokesman said.
The allegation involved the 2nd Combat Brigade of the 1st Infantry Division, which returned to its home base in Schweinfurt, Germany in November after a 15-month tour in Iraq, said Paul Boyce, an army spokesman.
Boyce said the investigation was triggered by ‘what appears to be an allegation of at least one, and likely more, battlefield deaths involving captured detainees.
‘The allegation is that this may in fact be some sort of a battlefield crime and we are pursuing this to determine the facts, the circumstances and further investigative leads,’ he said.
Boyce said the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Combat Brigade operated in the Rashid district of southwest Baghdad during its tour.
He said the alleged deaths did not occur in a detention facility but rather at what the military calls ‘the point of capture.’
The deaths are alleged to have occurred at least six months ago, he said.
He provided no other details on the specifics of the allegation, which came to the army’s attention last week.
The Army’s Criminal Investigation Command is conducting the investigation, he said, adding that the probe was still in its initial stages and no charges have been brought.
‘Usually, these things come to light when somebody talks about it, a soldier in the unit, that sort of thing,’ he said.
‘I don’t want to rule out the scope and the extent of the situation quite yet, until we better understand what we are dealing with,’ he said.
Stars and Stripes, a military newspaper that first reported on the investigation, said the Schweinfurt-based unit saw heavy fighting in Iraq, suffering 59 deaths.
l A picture about the prisoner abuse scandal at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib jail will become the first documentary ever to enter the competition at the Berlin Film Festival next month, organisers said Tuesday.
‘Standard Operating Procedure’ by Oscar-winning director Errol Morris uses recovered footage, re-enactments and the notorious photographs published round the world to shed light on the sexual and physical abuse of Iraqi inmates by US troops at the notorious prison outside Baghdad.
‘It kept us glued to our seats,’ Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick said of the film at a news conference ahead of the February 7 to 17 event.
‘The known facts are presented in a way like you have never seen them before. That is the best thing a documentary can do.’
Morris, who will turn 60 next month, won an Academy Award for his incisive 2003 documentary ‘The Fog of War’ about former US Defense Secretary Robert McNamara.
His films ‘The Thin Blue Line’ about the death penalty in the United States and ‘A Brief History of Time’ on the disabled British astrophysicist Stephen Hawking were also international successes.
Kosslick told reporters that the line-up of the 58th Berlinale would be less political than in recent years and focus on music in cinema.
The 58th annual event will open with ‘Shine A Light’, a Rolling Stones documentary by Martin Scorsese. Both the band and the director are expected to attend the gala premiere.