WASHINGTON - January 10 - Following the January 5th announcement by U.S. military officials that a residence was mistakenly bombed near Baiji, the Campaign for Innocent Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) today expressed sympathy for the victims and urged the U.S. government to compensate surviving family members.
On January 2nd, an air strike targeted at insurgents instead killed at least six civilians in their home. U.S. officials on the ground in Iraq have the discretionary authority to compensate innocent persons who have suffered losses as a result of U.S. actions, including the family members of those killed. In 2003, the Congress established the "Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund" and has appropriated some $38 million to help civilian victims of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. CIVIC and other nongovernmental organizations are working with the U.S. government to make the best use of these funds, and CIVIC urged a thorough investigation of the Baiji incident so that assistance can be given to surviving family members.
“The United States military deserves credit for the considerable efforts it makes to avoid harming civilians," said Sarah Holewinski, executive director of CIVIC. “But when mistakes happen, we have a responsibility to help the victims and their loved ones.”
The U.S. government does not keep an official count of civilian casualties in Iraq. With the U.S. military’s reliance on air strikes increasing, a record of incidents should be maintained so that efforts to prevent civilian casualties can be evaluated and improved. “Keeping as accurate a record as possible and compensating victims is important for the U.S. to maintain the respect and support of the Iraqi people,” said Holewinski.
CIVIC is a Washington-based organization founded by the late Marla Ruzicka, who was killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad while advocating for civilian victims' families in Iraq. CIVIC believes that civilians killed or injured in conflict should be counted and their families compensated by the governments involved, and is working in conflict zones to identify and help the families of civilian casualties.