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US compensation files for Iraqi, Afghan civilian deaths released under FOIA

[JURIST] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] Thursday released data obtained under a June 2006 Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, documenting civilian casualties [searchable database; press release] caused by US military personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan [JURIST news archives]. The 479 files from Iraq, and 17 files from Afghanistan, are compensation requests filed with the US Foreign Claims Commissions [statutory basis] by surviving family members. While some claims were denied because the incidents arose from enemy action or occurred during combat situations, other incidents resulted in cash payments. When the military admits fault, the payments are labeled as "compensation." "Condolence" payments, which the military offers as expressions of sympathy, can be awarded without military admission of fault and are capped at $2500.

Marc Garlasco [Mother Jones profile], a senior military analyst at Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website], commended the US for paying compensation to family members of civilians killed by US forces, but urged the military to establish "clear and fair standards" for such awards. Currently claims can be denied if the soldier has not reported the combat action or known civilian casualty in the military's "significant actions" database. HRW points out that sometimes soldiers are unaware that a death has been caused by a stray bullet, or may simply fail to record an incident. HRW also denounced the fact that claims against civilian contractors are denied, even when the contractors are "operating under the US military umbrella". HRW has more.

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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