WASHINGTON - July 10 - Following the launch of Pentagon investigations into troop misconduct in Iraq, the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) today urged the United States to recognize and assist surviving family members and communities harmed in those incidents.
The June 30th claim that U.S. soldiers raped a woman and killed her and three of her family members south of Baghdad marks the latest in a string of criminal investigations into whether U.S. soldiers intentionally harmed Iraqi civilians. "Applying the military justice system to determine guilt or innocence in these tragic events is the first step," said Sarah Holewinski, Executive Director of CIVIC. "But it’s just as important to provide swift and equitable assistance to victims, to make clear that harm to civilians does not reflect the values of America or it’s military.”
CIVIC highlighted the importance of formal efforts to dignify surviving family members and communities affected by these incidents. U.S. officials on the ground in Iraq currently have two mechanisms designed to mitigate loss and improve goodwill between Iraqis and Americans. The Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund – named for CIVIC’s founder killed in Baghdad last year – helps communities harmed by Coalition actions rebuild, with $5 million recently appropriated in the FY06 Emergency Supplemental. The U.S. military also maintains a mechanism to provide condolence payments to families suffering losses from U.S. operations.
According to a military officer currently stationed in Iraq, commanders there now have the ability to pay up to $10,000 in condolence, an increase from the $2500 maximum allowed previously. “Should investigations yield findings of intentional harm to civilians, the severity of those crimes merits the most generous condolence allowed under military regulations,” said Holewinski. CIVIC warned that any distribution of aid must be delivered to the families in a sensitive, culturally appropriate and secure way that does not place them in any further danger.
CIVIC is a Washington-based organization founded by the late Marla Ruzicka, a passionate humanitarian killed by a suicide bomb in Baghdad while advocating for war victims in Iraq. CIVIC believes that civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and aided by the governments involved, and is working toward smart, compassionate policies for civilians caught in the crossfire of conflict.