by Chris Spannos, Electronic Iraq –
(January 25, 2004) — According to a new report, the US military in Iraq is arrogant and cruel when dealing with Iraqis seeking compensation for wrongful death, injuries and property destruction. The report, authored by Iraq Occupation Watch and The National Association for the Defense of Human Rights in Iraq (NADHRI), slams US military practice in Iraq since March 1, 2003 and charges that the US compensation system in Iraq is useless.
The “Joint Report on Civilian Casualties and Claims Related to US Military Operations” investigates cases of civilian casualties caused by random shootings, house searches, car accidents between civilian and military vehicles, and deaths caused by cluster bombs. It also explores how the compensation system is working.
The Occupation Is ‘Bloodier’ than the Invasion
Bush declared heavy fighting in Iraq to be over last May. However, the report claims that “the postwar situation is often bloodier than the war itself”.
Up to 512 American soldiers have died as of January 24, 2004. The Associated Press reports that most of the deaths have occurred since Bush’s May 1 declaration. According to the Christian Science Monitor there aren’t any reliable statistics on the numbers of Iraqis killed since the war but, “most analysts in Iraq say the local civilian death toll…is numbering well into the thousands”.
After May 1, the US created a legal system where Iraqi civilians who have suffered can present claims for compensation to US military authorities. This system operates anytime the US military is deployed to a foreign country.
The US military said it would hear claims from Iraqis whose family members were killed or wounded in incidents involving US troops as long they took place in non-combat circumstances. The claims are dealt with under the Foreign Claims Act and cover material damage, injury and death. These incidents must have occurred after May 1, during a non-combat situation and be generated by wrongful action or negligence.
More than 5,000 Claims Filed against US Troops
According to Human Rights Watch, the US military has received nearly 5,400 claims as of mid-September, 4,148 of which had been adjudicated and 1,874 denied. The New York Times reports that the US military has paid out more than $2 million in compensation for damage and injury claims since May.
Lawyers for NADHRI have filed 120 cases for compensation with the military. Occupation Watch has filed 20 and logged more than 80. None of these claims have received compensation.
Many Obtacles to Filing Claims
To file claims Iraqis have to go to Civilian Military Operation Centers (CMOC). The report documents an extensive list of difficulties experienced at CMOC offices. These include no Arabic copies of the Foreign Claims Act procedures, all replies are written in English, lack of female soldiers for interactions with Iraqi women and loss of seized documents, safes, money and gold.
The report describes one case outlining the death of Mazen Antoine Hanna Noraddin, a 32-year-old pharmaceutical company sales representative. Mazen was killed in military crossfire while waiting on the side of the road for a taxi.
American military units shot Mazen seven times while firing randomly across a 200-meter stretch of road in response to an attack.
The American units took Mazan’s corpse to the airport for a forensic examination allowing Mr. Antoine, Mazen’s father, 72, to accompany them. He waited two hours at the airport before being told to take his son’s corpse back home — by taxi. Mr. Antoine refused, telling the soldiers that no taxi would pick him up and that it’s difficult to find a taxi near the airport.
After some discussion, the same unit received orders to return Mazen’s body and his father to his home. The unit insisted that he get out at the nearest intersection instead.
Mazen’s father, told to carry the body the rest of the way, replied that he could not and that there was no problem for the unit in reaching the house. They agreed on the condition that he run in front of the truck as a human shield. Mazen’s father ran until they reached Mazen’s road, where they refused to go any further. Mazen’s father, with some friends on the street, carried Mazen’s corpse back to the house.
A compensation claim was filed for the case of Mazen and the family received $2,500 “sympathy money”.
Families of Innocent Civilians Killed by US Receive ‘Sympathy Money’
Occupation Watch researcher Paola Gasparoli commented that, in the case of “sympathy money”, the US military authority “doesn’t recognize responsibility. They simply say ‘our units were acting in the respect of the rules of engagement. But we understand that for your family it’s a tragedy. So, we pay $2,500′”.
Reconsideration of Mazen’s case was requested but refused. The case is now closed.
Refused Cliams ‘Another Form of Disresepct’
Gasparoli said, “The fact they don’t want to investigate combat situations is increasing the impunity between soldiers because there is no inquiry about the disproportionate use of force or to see if the reaction of the soldiers was useful to catch the attacker. So the units know that nothing happens to them.”
When asked if there is a process for holding troops accountable, she responded, “No, because [Iraqis] don’t go to a court or tribunal. Here there are judge-lawyers. They are military so they arrive in uniform and they are armed. And it’s just up to them to accept or reject the case. Lawyers and judges are the same person.”
She said that for Iraqis the compensation claims “are not only a question of money. But, that they see the refusal to accept the claim as another insult, as another form of disrespect.”
The report concludes by observing that “the way the compensation system is structured and managed, the American troops have adopted an atmosphere of impunity. Arrogant and violent behavior goes unpunished and continues.”
Chris Spannos produces radio in the Redeye collective, heard on Vancouver’s Cooperative Radio, CFRO. He is a founder and collective member of Vancouver’s Participatory Economics Collective.
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