BAGHDAD, IRAQ (November 29, 2018) — The Iraqi government’s compensation law is falling short of its goal to assist civilians who have lost lives, property, and suffered injuries during armed conflict, including during the fight against the Islamic State or Daesh (also referred to ISIS). As Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) outlines in “We Hope, But We Are Hopeless,” instead of feeling supported, civilians are growing increasingly frustrated by the costly and complex claims procedure of Law 20, “Compensating the Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions” (the compensation law). CIVIC’s research reflects civilian perspectives on the challenges to seek compensation for their losses and frustration that so few claims have been paid to date.
“Civilians are desperate to rebuild their shattered lives now that combat operations against ISIS have ended. Unfortunately, the compensation law is failing the very people it is intended to help. The Iraqi government designed the compensation law to address civilian needs, but the implementation is marred by corruption and cumbersome bureaucracy, making the law ineffective,” said Sahr Muhammedally, Director of CIVIC’s MENA and South Asia Program. “The Iraqi government must undertake urgent reforms to make the compensation process accessible and fair, or risk creating tensions between civilians and the government. Understanding civilians’ expectations and addressing their needs for compensation are essential to shoring up Iraq’s fragile security and avoiding cycles of violence perpetuated by unaddressed grievances.”
As set forth in “We Hope, But We Are Hopeless,” civilian views of the compensation process range from cautiously optimistic to deeply frustrated and angry. In the words of one civilian in Fallujah, “I lost five sons during military operations against ISIS. I submitted a claim, and I go twice a week to check if I will be paid, but I haven’t had any answer so far. I am a poor man, I am sick. I had to borrow money to file the claim and to live, and I depend on this payment to help me and my family.”
The policy brief provides an overview of the compensation law, the structures in place to implement it, the application process to file claims under it, and proposes practical recommendations to reform the compensation process and make it accessible, fair, and effective.
The compensation law, amended in 2015, applies retroactively from March 20, 2003 through the present day and covers harm caused by ISIS or during military operations against ISIS. Between January 2014 and November 2015, 3.2 million people in Iraq were forced to flee their homes. Thousands of civilians were killed and injured by ISIS as the group advanced and while it held territory. Military operations to retake territory held by ISIS—led by Iraqi Security Forces, the Hashad al Shabi, the Peshmerga, and the US-led anti-ISIS coalition—resulted in civilian deaths and injuries and widespread damage and destruction of homes and cities. The gains made thus far by the Iraqi government toward rebuilding are at risk of being lost if the compensation process is not promptly improved and civilians are not provided with urgent assistance to rebuild their lives.
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC) is an international organization dedicated to promoting the protection of civilians caught in conflict. CIVIC’s mission is to work with armed actors and civilians in conflict to develop and implement solutions to prevent, mitigate, and respond to civilian harm. Our vision is a world where parties to armed conflict recognize the dignity and rights of civilians, prevent civilian harm, protect civilians caught in conflict, and amend harm. CIVIC was established in 2003 by Marla Ruzicka, a young humanitarian who advocated on behalf of civilians affected by the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Building on her extraordinary legacy, CIVIC now operates in conflict zones throughout the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and South Asia to advance a higher standard of protection for civilians. Visit civiliansinconflict.org for more.
Source: Center for Civilians in Conflict (CIVIC)
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