20 years on, Iraqis still wait for justice

March 2023

After 20 years of war since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi families who have suffered death, injury and forced displacement are still left without justice, said the Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights in a statement.

Over 5 million Iraqis were forced from their homes in cycles of conflict over two decades, many repeatedly, losing everything they owned. Hundreds of thousands were killed or injured. Tens of thousands of civilians were forcibly disappeared and remain missing.

Civilians whose rights have been violated have a right to justice wherever they are in the world,’ said Mark Lattimer, Ceasefire’s Director. ‘Iraqis whose lives were destroyed after the 2003 invasion of Iraq are entitled to justice just as much as those harmed in the 2022 invasion of Ukraine.

Ceasefire empowers civilians to monitor violations of human rights and international humanitarian law and supports them to claim reparations. Ceasefire’s legal help centre in Mosul provided legal advice to over 400 potential claimants in 2022 for death, injury or property damage going back to 2016-17. Nearly one third of those assisted had been harmed in military operations undertaken by the international coalition against ISIS.

‘The US and the UK first invaded Iraq 20 years ago, but the war goes on today,’ added Mr Lattimer. ‘The US Air Force and the Royal Air Force continue to fly combat missions in Iraq’s skies but the mechanisms for compensating civilians harmed in military operations remain woefully inadequate.’

The total paid in compensation by the UK for civilian harm in military operations in Iraq is £26.4 million across 1,893 cases. However, both the UK and the US have sought to avoid any liability for civilian harm in the recent phases of the air war. (For further details see Reparations for civilian harm from military operations: Towards a UK policy.)

The Iraqi government operates its own national scheme for compensating civilians harmed by ‘military operations, military mistakes and terrorist actions’. Over USD 400 million has been disbursed in tens of thousands of cases since 2011.

For more information or to arrange media interviews, please email contact@ceasefire.org

ceasefire20 years on, Iraqis still wait for justice