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Susan Breau and Rachel Joyce

The responsibility to record civilian casualties in both armed conflict and civil disturbances must be an integral element of the responsibility to protect, particularly in the application of the just cause principles. The first part of this article examines the threshold issue of the possibility of large-scale civilian casualties which triggers the international community’s responsibility to react. The reports recommending the responsibility to protect emphasise the need to establish the actuality or risk of ‘large scale’ loss of life which is not possible in the current context without a civilian casualty recording structure. The second part of the article outlines the international legal obligation to record civilian casualties based on international humanitarian law and international human rights law. Thirdly, the responsibility to protect and the legal obligation to record casualties are brought together within the framework of Ban Ki-moon’s reports on implementation of the Responsibility to Protect. The fourth and final part of the article reviews the situations in Sri Lanka and Syria. Both states represent egregious examples of governments hiding the existence of casualties, resulting in paralysis within the international community. These situations establish, beyond doubt, that the national obligation to record civilian casualties must be part and parcel of the responsibility to protect.