Iraqi Law No. 20 on Compensating Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions

On 1 October 2009, Iraq passed Law No. 20 Compensating the Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions. Its Article 1 stipulates that all citizens (‘natural persons’) who have been affected by war operations, military mistakes and terrorist acts in Iraq are entitled to compensation. It also provides support to the victims’ families. The law applies retroactively to incidents occurring on or after 20 March 2003, the date of the American invasion of Iraq.

The law identifies five categories eligible for reparation: martyrdom or being missing; full or partial disability; injuries/casualties and conditions requiring short-term treatment; damages to property (including vehicles, houses, agricultural lands, stores and inventory, and companies); and damages affecting employment and study. For the first three categories, the law provides for reparation that can have the form of a one-time grant, a monthly pension or a plot of residential land, to be awarded directly to the victim or to the family of the victim (in the case of martyrdom or loss).

Although considerable progress was made in compensating victims since this act has passed, the implementation of the law has its challenges. Some problems stem from the difficulties of implementing a reparations programme in the midst of the poor security situation in Iraq -that further deteriorated following the advance of ISIS in 2014- and in a context where state institutions are weak. For instance, in war waged areas, victims often faced difficulties in obtaining the documents needed to submit reparations claims from government offices. And while compensation money is distributed at the governorate level, many Internally Displaced Persons did not want to return to their governorates due to the volatile security situation.

Other factors hindering access to compensation are the high standard of proof compensation applicants must meet, the large number of reparation requests and the mechanism’s institutional structure; the two key institutions for receiving and assessing compensation claims, the Central Committee and subcommittees formed of representatives of various government ministries, headed by a judge, are considered bureaucratic and non-specialized. There is also no central funding system to make payments and other forms of reparation under Law 20.

Amendment: Law 57 of 2015

In view of the rise of ISIS, Law No. 20 was amended in 2015 by Law No. 57. Its scope was expanded to include both natural and legal persons and, partly in an effort to speed up the process of granting reparations, changes were made to the institutional structure: the role of the Central Committee in Baghdad is now limited to making the final decision on cases of property damage and reviewing appeals on other types of cases. Also, the bodies’ composition was changed, among other things, to include a representative of the victims themselves. Still, the Central Committee and subcommittees remain quasi-judicial bodies in essence, rather than administrative institutions, which places important limitations on victims in accessing reparations.

This information is retrieved from the following sources: