Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Pentagon Sued Over Release of Documents on Civilians Killed

Victims Advocacy Group Says Iraqi and Afghan Civilians Deserve Official Recognition

WASHINGTON - September 4 - Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict today affirmed the importance of The American Civil Liberties Union’s (ACLU) lawsuit against the Department of Defense (DoD) demanding compliance with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to release documents regarding civilians killed by coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

More than a year ago, the ACLU submitted a FOIA request for civilian casualty information to several DoD departments but has thus far received documents only from the Department of the Army. In April, the Army released nearly two thousand pages of partial claims files, submitted by civilians against Coalition Forces for death, injury or property damage. Today, the ACLU is releasing an additional 10,000 pages detailing civilian harm received from the Department of the Army. CIVIC noted this is likely a small fraction of the total existing record of civilian casualties held by US Armed Forces and applauded the ACLU for filing a lawsuit to obtain the remainder. Human rights groups have for years been asking for and have been denied these records.

“It’s unfortunate getting this information from the US military had to come down to a lawsuit,” said CIVIC’s executive director Sarah Holewinski. “Is the Pentagon in the dark about US-caused casualties, just as we are? If not, it should release the data and back up its claim to have the best interests of civilians at heart.”

CIVIC noted that keeping detailed records of casualties caused by US and Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan is the only way to ensure proper adherence to the Laws of War – the international rules requiring civilian protection and avoidance by all means feasible in combat. “Now is the time for the US to make clear – with hard data – that it avoids civilians, analyzes incidents of harm to improve operations, and appropriately compensates civilians when mistakes happen,” said Holewinski. “If all of that is true there’s no reason for the Pentagon to continue dodging our requests. Every civilian injury and death matters.”


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