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State governments in New York, Maryland, and Illinois have introduced legislation that would deny or…
April 16, 2014, New York – Spain’s Audiencia Nacional is continuing its investigation into the…
April 14, 2014, New York – Late on Friday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR),…
FOR THE LATEST UPDATES ON THE RIGHT TO HEAL INITIATIVE, VISIT RIGHTTOHEAL.ORG.
On the tenth anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, Iraqis and U.S. military veterans came together to hold the U.S. government accountable for the lasting effects of war and the rights of veterans and civilians to heal. The Iraq war is not over for Iraqi civilians and U.S. veterans who continue to struggle with various forms of trauma and injury; for veterans and Iraqis who suffer the effects of environmental poisoning due to certain U.S. munitions and burn pits of hazardous material; and for a growing generation of orphans and people displaced by war.
As Iraqi civil society tries to rebuild from the Iraq war as well as a decade of U.S. bombing and sanctions, it faces political repression by a corrupt U.S.-established government that is selling off the country’s natural resources to foreign interests. The U.S continues this pattern of violations with its ongoing war in Afghanistan. The United States must be held accountable for its violations of the rights to life and health of these war-torn peoples.
On March 19, 2013, the 10-year anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, the Center for Constitutional Rights submitted a request for a thematic hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) on behalf of Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, three petitioning organizations whose members are directly impacted by the lasting effects of the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq. The request for an IACHR hearing in Fall 2013 was denied, but the organizations are preparing a request for a hearing in the March 2014 IACHR session to coincide with the 11th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
While awaiting a response to the hearing request, CCR submitted a shadow report before the United Nations Human Rights Committee in advance of its review of the U.S. during the Committee's 109th session. The U.S. is being reviewed pursuant to its treaty obligations as a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The shadow report details the violations to civil and political rights that took place due to the war and continue to take place as a result of the United States’ war-making and occupation.
The Right to Heal Initiative is a multi-faceted project to surface the impacts of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq within the international human rights framework. The objective of the project is to examine the human rights impacts and implications of the wars and to show the connection between harms done to communities where the wars are waged and service member communities. The project aims to raise awareness of and examine how the invasion and occupation has affected the lives and health of Iraqi and Afghan communities and U.S. service member communities alike, in particular through (i) the long-term impacts of the U.S. military’s use of certain munitions, in terms of health issues and environmental degradation; (ii) the consequences of the failure to treat the physical and mental injuries suffered by service members, leading to harmful and violent behavior affecting both their communities at home and, when redeployed, communities where the conflicts are fought); and (iii) gender-based violence, as a weapon and by-product of war which left its own legacy, and its prevalence within the U.S. military. Taking an intersectional approach, the project seeks to document and expose the ways in which marginalized communities in Iraq and the U.S. have borne and continue to bear the brunt of these harms.
On behalf of those who are suffering and will continue to suffer from the human rights and health impacts of the decade of U.S.-led war, the petitioning organizations seek acknowledgement and accountability for the war as well as the war crimes and rights abuses perpetrated therein. Accountability for the toxic legacy of war must begin with acknowledgement and comprehensive, unbiased, scientific study of the problems caused by the U.S.’s use of toxic munitions and burn pits, which has resulted in drastically increased rates of birth defects, cancers and other disabilities; along with the immediate discontinuation and prohibition of the use of inhumane weapons. Funding, assistance and resources must be provided to those servicemembers and Iraqi families who suffer as a result of their toxic exposures, including funding for medical treatment, cancer treatment centers and research, and reparations for affected families.
The U.S. must respect the right to the preservation of health by providing benefits, fully funding healthcare, scientific studies and other support for returning U.S. servicemembers, including reforming military structures that impede seeking and providing care. Further, the U.S. must fulfill its obligation to research and fully treat mental health and traumatic injuries suffered by U.S. servicemembers and Iraqis, which have resulted in an increase in suicides and violence in communities that have already suffered immeasurable loss. To this end, the military must also respect servicemembers’ right to follow their medical plan without interruption through redeployment, and must guarantee their ability to get a medical discharge.
Accountability, reforms and resources are needed to address the gender-based violence in Iraq, including accountability for the violence suffered by Iraqis at the hands of the U.S. military and U.S.-trained security forces. Systemic reforms and accountability are needed to end sex trafficking and to protect, re-integrate, and empower the trafficked population and other survivors. Likewise, accountability is needed for the widespread and systemic sexual violence within the military, including improved services and access to justice for survivors of military sexual assault.
To stem continued human rights abuses and provide justice for past violations, the structural damages Iraq has suffered as a result of war must be addressed including reparations to rebuild public infrastructure, cessation of the forced economic policies which have led to corruption and disintegration of Iraq’s economy at the cost of the Iraqi populace and sovereignty, and providing accountability for ongoing rights violations by the regime set up and supported by the U.S. There must also be a restoration of cultural artifacts.
Finally, in the spirit of this collaborative effort between both Iraqi civilians and U.S. veterans, the organizations appeal for spaces for impact-based testimonies by affected communities to facilitate the process of recovery and reconciliation, with all affected parties able to seek care, healing, and accountability without retaliation or stigma. The organizations are requesting a thematic hearing as an essential part of that process.
For more information please see the Demanding the Right to Heal website.
On March 19, 2013, CCR filed the request for the thematic hearing at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
On September 13, 2013, CCR filed a shadow report to the United Nations Human Rights Committee in advance of its review of the U.S. in its 109th Session.