• About CIVIC

    CIVIC is a Washington-based non-profit organization that believes the civilians injured and the families of those killed should be recognized and helped by the warring parties involved.

    On this blog, you will find stories from our travels around the world as we meet with civilians and military, aid organizations and government in our quest to get war victims the help they need.

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  • Contributors

    Sarah, Executive Director

    Marla B, Managing Director

    Kristele, Field Director

    Liz, Chief Communications Officer

    Trevor, CIVIC's fellow based in Afghanistan

    Chris, CIVIC's fellow based in Pakistan

    Jon, CIVIC's US military consultant

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Filing Claims in Wardak (continued)

Continued from below

Posted by: Erica

KABUL – In many ways, the experience of these two leaders in Wardak is representative of many Afghans’ attempts to get an apology, explanation, or other just resolution of their claims. In many cases, civilians do not have a sense that they could make a demand for compensation. Among those who do, many are afraid to approach the local miltiary representatives at the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) for fear of further harm to their family. Even for the few who get past these two initial hurdles, the odds of actually being allowed to make a claim and have it addressed are slim. Many civilians have reported to me that they were simply turned away. If they were lucky enough to get someone to listen to them, it does not necessarily mean they will be able to establish their claims.

The situation of the two elders is a case in point. If they were injured by U.S. troops, as seems likely given the time and location of their injury, they will need to get their claim for assistance heard by U.S. military officers. The U.S. military will then check to see if it has records of US troops involved in fighting in the place and time mentioned. The problem in this case is that the elders told me the incident happened over 6 months ago. U.S. solatia and condolence payments have no technical time limit, but most U.S. troop rotations take the records of any incidents they are involved in with them. So if the troops involved have rotated out since the incident, these elders have little chance of establishing their claim.

Another option is the USAID ACAP program, but there also may be some complications for eligibility under that program as well. Even though UNAMA recorded the incident at the time, it does not appear in press accounts, which is the easiest (though not the only) way for the USAID ACAP program to verify that an incident happened. In many of the conflict-prone areas of the country, there is not always full news coverage, particularly by international press outlets. Wardak has been one of those provinces, sadly. Getting the report from the Turkish PRT is one option, but it also depends on how they verified the report and whether they still have the records.

It’s a frustrating situation and one that the AIHRC confronts on a weekly basis. There are so many families in need, and while there often is the funding and the will among ISAF countries to help victims of conflict, getting that funding to the families in a timely fashion seems impossible in so many situations.

Filing Claims in Wardak (continued)

Continued from below

Posted by: Erica

KABUL – As far as the two elders from Wardak understood, they had duly filed their claim, and they fully expected that the international military authorities who had caused the damage to their land would deal with them justly. The advice I had to give them was the last thing they expected to hear.

The active fighting in Wardak in the past few months has been almost exclusively U.S. military and air force, potentially with some backup by the Afghan National Army or other ISAF troops. This means that if they were injured in Wardak, they were very likely injured by U.S. troops and would have to make a claim with them, not with the Turkish troops at the local PRT. Even if the PRT in Wardak had taken their documentation and agreed with their claim, as they said, given the lack of coordination between the militaries of different NATO member countries, the odds that the Turkish military officers who took the information were proactive enough to forward it to their U.S. military counterparts are slim to none. The two elders also said they presented their claim at ISAF HQ in Kabul, but unfortuantely I’ve also never heard of a case where ISAF HQ in Kabul forwarded compensation claims to U.S. military authorities, much less of a case where those claims were then processed successfully.

I asked my translator to explain to them that we would try to do something, but that the odds are that their “claim” had never gone anywhere. My translator turned to me and said, “But I don’t understand. Why would the ISAF tell him they would do something about the claim and then not do anything about it?” I had no explanation for him, other than that is what I have seen repeatedly in the 9 months I have been here.

To be continued: Fri., Nov. 21, 2008.

Filing Claims in Wardak

Posted by: Erica

KABUL – Last week I was meeting with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) at their offices, when two community elders from Wardak province walked in. Wardak province is adjacent to the province in which Kabul is located, but the fighting there has been so intense that few human rights organizations or independent monitors have been able to go there for months to investigate claims of civilians caught in conflict. Based on the stories coming out of Wardak, these two elders were relatively lucky. U.S. military forces were engaged in ground fire and then called in air support to strike targets in their district. No members of their family were killed or seriously injured. Nonetheless 3 houses were virtually destroyed and they lost most of the livestock, which was their main means to support their families. By their accounts, most people in their district were in a similar position. Of the 100 families who lived in their village, only 12 remained. The others had fled out of fear of being caught in continued fighting and airstrikes.

The two men had come to the AIHRC for help in making a claim for compensation with the miltiary authorities who had been active in their region. They said that representatives of the local Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) had come and surveyed the damage immediately after the strike in late May. (PRTs act as a sort of local base for international military. They are located in most provinces in Afghanistan). The elders said they had also filed their claim with ISAF authorities in Kabul, who had promised to forward it to the appropriate military and help them in getting compensation. Now 6 months later they had heard nothing and they wondered what they could do to get compensation for the property that they and their community had lost.

To be continued: Wed, Nov. 19, 2008.

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