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CIVIC: Iraq: New Documents Detail Civilian Deaths Caused by US Forces

July 2, 2008
11:08 AM

CONTACT: CIVIC (The Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict)
Marla Bertagnolli, Associate Director
Jon Tracy, Military Analyst

Iraq: New Documents Detail Civilian Deaths Caused by US Forces
War victims advocates dismayed at failure to pay for damages
WASHINGTON - July 2 - The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) today released documents from the US Naval Criminal Investigative Services (NCIS) detailing the alleged killing of Iraqi civilians by US Marines. After studying the eight cases, Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) was dismayed that only one resulted in payment to civilians for damages and called for swift compensation to the victims and their families.

When US forces anywhere cause the death of civilians through wrongful or negligent acts, a law called the Foreign Claims Act authorizes compensation to the victim's family members. If a Foreign Claims Act award is not appropriate in a particular case, the US military still maintains the ability to offer a "condolence" - usually in the form of a smaller, symbolic payment to the victim's family that recognizes unintentional harm caused by US combat operations. Though four of the eight victims described in the NCIS files were determined to be civilians, only one family received a claims payment and none were paid condolences. CIVIC called this a mistake.

"These documents tell us that victims and their families are being overlooked by US forces," said Sarah Holewinski, executive director of CIVIC. As an example, Holewinski cited the case of a man pulled from his home by Marines and shot by the side of the road. The Marines then planted an AK-47 and a shovel on the man to make it appear as though he was an insurgent caught burying an Improvised Explosive Device (IED). The true story was eventually revealed after initial cover-ups and several convictions followed, but compensation to the family (in this case appropriate through the Foreign Claims Act) did not follow.

"Justice doesn't end in a courtroom," said Holewinski. "US laws exist to compensate civilians suffering losses. To not use them diminishes their value and further harms the grieving victims, who are left without recognition or assistance long after a case is closed." CIVIC also noted that the ACLU documents represent only an extremely small number of the many documents the US military refuses to release.

CIVIC is a Washington-based organization that believes civilians harmed in conflict should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved. In 2005, CIVIC's founder Marla Ruzicka was killed in Iraq by suicide bomb. CIVIC honors her legacy and strives to sustain her vision.


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