Law No. 20 on Compensating Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions (2009)

(law retroactively entered into force on 20 March 2003)

On 1 October 2009, Iraq passed Law No. 20 Compensating the Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions. The law, amended in 2015 and, again, in 2020, provides assistance to all citizens (‘natural persons’) who have been affected by war operations, military mistakes and terrorist acts in Iraq. Eligible for compensation are the victims themselves and their 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 of damages eligible for reparation: (I) martyrdom or being missing; (II) full or partial disability; (III) injuries/casualties and other medical conditions requiring short-term treatment; (IV) property damages (including vehicles, houses, agricultural lands, stores and inventory, and companies); and (V) damages affecting employment and study. Reparation is provided in the form of a one-time grant, a monthly pension of various amount, a plot of residential land, or other types of privileges. Compensation for property damages, on the other hand, is decided on a case-by-case basis depending on the value of the item and the extent of the damage.

First Amendment: Law No. 57 of 2015

In 2015, in view of the massive suffering experienced by civilians under the rise of ISIS, Law No. 20 was amended to offer monetary payments to individuals affected by terrorist acts and military operations against terrorists. Law No. 57 of 2015 expanded the scope of eligible applicants to include both natural and legal persons. Moreover, in an effort to speed up the process of granting reparations, it revised the functioning of institutions in place to make compensations, introduced new bodies, and amended the application process to file claims.

Law No. 20 established a Central Committee, based in Baghdad, responsible for the assessment of cases of property damages. The 2015 amendment created a new office within the Martyr’s Foundation entrusted with making the final decision on claims for deaths, missing persons, abduction and injuries and on appeals cases. Law No. 57 also introduced subcommittees responsible for receiving claims for all type of harms and submitting them to the responsible institutions in Baghdad. Finally, the composition of the bodies was changed to include, among other things, a representative of the victims themselves.

Second Amendment: Law No. 2 of 2020

The 2020 amendment reshaped the structures in place to implement the law, including their composition, and the payments schemes. First it increased the number of Central Committees and allowed for the establishment of additional sub-committees. Second it changed the composition of each Committee., which is now formed by a judge, a representative of the Human Rights Commission, the Ministry of Housing, the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Justice, a representative of the Martyr’s Foundation and a representative of the Kurdistan region.

Although the Law represents a valuable instrument to offer assistance to victims of terrorism and military operations, its implementation presents several challenges. There are significant delays in the compensation process, as offices are under resourced and lack sufficient trained staff. The application process itself is described as cumbersome and lengthy. Not only are individuals required to obtain numerous official documents, which can be costly, but applicants also need to travel to on multiple occasions to governorates’ capitals.

Finally, some implementation problems stem from the difficulties of carrying out 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 country where state institutions are weak. While compensation money is distributed at the local level, many Internally Displaced Persons do not want to return to their governorates due to the volatile security situation. Additionally, the system is plagued by corruption and/or extortion.

This information is retrieved from the following sources:

• Law No. 20 on Compensating Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions (2009) – unofficial translation

• UN GA, Human Rights Council, Report of the Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination A/HRC/18/32/Add.4, 12 August 2011.

• UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Human Rights Report, 1 July-31 December 2009, 8 July 2010.

• Global Shelter Cluster Report Property Compensation Guidelines Based on Iraq Law 20 2009 and Law 57, 2015 (first amendment), December 2018

• Ceasefire Centre for Civilian Rights Report Reparations for the Victims of Conflict in Iraq, Chapter 4 – ‘Case study: Iraq’s Law No. 20 on Compensation for Victims of Military Operations, Military Mistakes and Terrorist Actions’, November 2017.