Iraqi coalition victims 'forced to lie' to claim compensation
Thousands of Iraqis whose family members were killed by international coalition bombings have been forced to change the victims' cause of death certificates in order to claim compensation, Iraqi officials said on Tuesday.
The relatives of those killed during the coalition's four-year campaign against the Islamic State group in Iraq are concerned they are unable to claim compensation under Iraqi law, according to The New Arab's Arabic-language site.
They have instead turned to changing the cause of death to "terrorist operations" in order to bypass lengthy procedures which could stop them from receiving compensation.
"My son was [registered as] a victim of terrorism, although he was killed with his wife and two children inside their house by the bombardment of an unknown aircraft in Mosul at the end of 2016," said Kamila al-Hayali.
"They were pulled out from under the roof of their house, but when I filled out the official death certificate, a lawyer advised me to make the cause of death 'terrorist operations' in order to avoid the investigative procedures which could take months," he said.
"I needed any compensation in which I could support the rest of my brothers."
Relatives of victims of "sectarian" attacks by the Iran-linked Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) militia, as well as those killed by Iraqi bombings, have also turned towards doctoring the death certificates in order to more easily seek compensation, Baghdad officials told The New Arab's Arabic-language service.
The committees responsible for managing compensation within the Iraqi government have received "thousands" of doctored claims from the families of victims of Iraqi or US-led coalition bombings and sectarian militias, an official in Baghdad said.
"People are forced to do this because they are in need, despite the fact that compensation has not been officially distributed to the residents of liberated cities so far," the official said.
Officials warn that the doctoring of death certificates could provide impunity for those responsible for killing civilians in Iraq.
"It means the total acquittal of actors in the armed conflict from charges of [human rights] violations and killing, and leads to the lack of possibility of future trials for all crimes," officials said.
The Baghdad official explained: "Most of the parties benefit from this case… it confines the responsibility [for crimes] just to IS."
The families' doctoring of death certificates has been caused by a "misinterpretation" or "misunderstanding" of the law by government committees and institutions, a Mosul MP said.
It is not true, he said, that families cannot claim compensation for victims of coalition bombings.
"This situation has been ongoing for several months, and the government must tell the [responsible] institutions that military errors are covered by the compensation law. It is also necessary for the verification process to be short and easy," said the MP.
Many fear that claiming compensation over coalition bombings will lead to a lengthy investigation and legal process which will hamper success. By claiming family members of victims of IS crimes, Iraqis are able to bypass scrutiny and receive compensation, he said.
"The continuation of this means the whitewashing of the records of parties involved in crimes in Iraq, including the US and multiple Iraqi parties," the MP explained.
In response, MP Raad al-Dahlaki called for a "special law for the victims of foreign forces".
"There is a legislative chaos which has caused this confusion and prompted the citizen to do this [doctoring death certificates]," he said.
He also urged the creation of another separate law for the victims of gangs and militias.
The number of Iraqis estimated killed, injured or missing during the campaign against IS which started in 2014 is a quarter of a million. The provinces of Nineveh and Anbar experienced the highest number of casualties.