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Today's Top News
800 Cases Filed on Civilians Killed in US Wars: ACLU
WASHINGTON — More than 800 complaints have been filed by families of civilians killed in US military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, a civil rights watchdog said citing documents made public Thursday.
The 13,000 pages of documents made public by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) include "more than 800 claims for damages by the family members of those killed, including many that were denied," the group said in a statement.
The group obtained the documents following a September 2007 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit.
It said many of the claims were denied under the "combat exemption" clause to the Foreign Claims Act (FCA), "which provides that harm inflicted on residents of foreign countries by US soldiers during combat cannot be compensated under the FCA, even if the victims had no involvement whatsoever in the combat."
Due to the claim denials, "many innocent civilians were not compensated for their harm or were referred to the Commander's Emergency Response Program for a discretionary condolence payment that is subject to an automatic 2,500-dollar limit per death," the ACLU said.
The records "illustrate that innocent civilian victims and their families are still not being appropriately compensated for their losses," said Nasrina Bargzie, an attorney working with the ACLU on the case.
She urged President Barack Obama's administration "to reform the broken civilian compensation program."
In a related lawsuit, the ACLU is seeking information on the expanded use of aerial drones to conduct targeted killings overseas.
The group is seeking to determine the legal basis for drone strikes, "as well as the number and rate of civilian casualties caused by the attacks."
The CIA attacks by unmanned aircraft in Pakistan, Somalia and elsewhere have sharply increased under the Obama administration but have remained shrouded in secrecy, with some human rights groups charging the bombing raids amount to illegal assassinations.
On March 26 the US government offered a legal justification of its drone strikes against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, citing the right to "self-defense" under international law.