Newly Released Documents Reveal Details of Civilian Casualty Claims in Afghanistan and Iraq

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Rachel Myers, (212) 549-2689 or 2666; media@aclu.org

Newly Released Documents Reveal Details of Civilian Casualty Claims in Afghanistan and Iraq

ACLU Releases 13,000 Pages of Government Files That Underscore Flaws in Compensating Victims' Families

NEW YORK - The American Civil Liberties Union today
made public more than 13,000 pages of documents regarding reports of
civilians killed or injured by Coalition Forces in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The documents include more than 800 claims for damages by the family
members of those killed, including many that were denied, and reveal new
details about the flaws in the system for compensating victims'
families. The ACLU received the records in response to its September
2007 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) lawsuit, which is part of an
effort to make more details about the ongoing wars available to the
public.

"With more U.S. forces being sent
into civilian areas in Afghanistan, it is critical that the American
public be informed about what is at stake," said Nasrina Bargzie,
cooperating counsel with the ACLU and an attorney at Boies, Schiller
& Flexner LLP in Oakland, CA. "These newly released records
illustrate that innocent civilian victims and their families are still
not being appropriately compensated for their losses. Now that this
problem has been brought to light, we hope the Obama administration will
be compelled to reform the broken civilian compensation program."

The files made public today comprise
over 800 claims for compensation or condolence payments submitted to the
U.S. Foreign Claims Commissions and the Commander's Emergency Response
Program by surviving family members of Afghan and Iraqi civilians said
to have been killed or injured or to have suffered property damages due
to actions by Coalition Forces. Many of the claims were denied under the
so-called "combat exemption" to the Foreign Claims Act (FCA), which
provides that harm inflicted on residents of foreign countries by U.S.
soldiers during combat cannot be compensated under the FCA, even if the
victims had no involvement whatsoever in the combat. The documents
reveal that, 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 limit per death.

In related litigation, the ACLU is
seeking records relating to the government's expanded use of predator
drones to conduct targeted killings overseas. That FOIA lawsuit asks for
information about the legal basis for drone strikes, as well as the
number and rate of civilian casualties caused by the attacks.

"These records will help the American
people comprehend the impact of war on innocent civilians and will
allow the public to participate meaningfully in the ongoing debate about
these wars," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National
Security Project. "An informed public is a critical part of any
democracy. Releasing the civilian casualty records is a good step
towards increasing government transparency. The Obama administration
should continue releasing documents that could inform the public about
the critical issues of war."

Attorneys on the civilian casualty
FOIA litigation are Bargzie; Wizner and Alexander Abdo of the ACLU
National Security Project; and Arthur B. Spitzer of the ACLU of the
Nation's Capital.

The documents released today by the
ACLU are available online at: www.aclu.org/civiliancasualties

More information about the predator
drone FOIA lawsuit is available online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/aclu-seeks-information-predator-drone-program

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The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

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