800 Cases Filed on Civilians Killed in US Wars: ACLU

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Agence France-Presse

800 Cases Filed on Civilians Killed in US Wars: ACLU

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Iraqi men carry the coffin of a killed relative during a funeral. (AFP image)

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.

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