US forces in Baghdad, Iraq, May 2003. © 2003 Fred Abrahams/Human Rights Watch

In the lead up to the US-led invasion of Iraq on March 20, 2003, proponents of the war spoke of the Iraqi people as helpless victims of a dictatorial regime. Yet the Iraqi people paid the heaviest price of the invasion.

Almost half a million people lost their lives, millions lost homes, and countless civilians suffered abuses by all parties to the conflict.

Then and now, Human Rights Watch urged parties to the conflict to compensate victims and hold perpetrators accountable, but impunity prevails.

Soon after military operations began, evidence emerged of coalition laws of war violations. Coalition forces, including the United States and United Kingdom, dropped thousands of inherently indiscriminate cluster munitions in populated areas and conducted indiscriminate airstrikes that killed civilians.

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