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article imageIraqi civilians outraged over leaked 'Collateral Murder' video

By Lynn Herrmann     Apr 7, 2010 in Politics
Baghdad - Families of Iraqi victims shown being shot and killed by the US military in a leaked video are demanding justice over the atrocity.
A video titled Collateral Murder was released earlier this week by WikiLeaks, a non-profit organization that publishes leaked documents provided by anonymous sources. The video, from July 2007, shows a US military aerial assault on a group of civilians in Baghdad, leaving 12 people dead, including two employees of Reuters, and two children wounded.
According to Al Jazeera English, victims’ relatives want US personnel responsible for the deaths to be held accountable in court.
The two wounded children, whose father was killed during the second part of the attack as he attempted to help a victim wounded in the initial attack, cannot understand the military actions.
"We were coming back and we saw an injured man. My father said, let's take him to hospital. Then I heard only the bullets ... Why did they shoots us? Didn't they see we were children?" said Sajad Mutashar, in the Al Jazeera report, who was injured along with his sister.
Sajad’s uncle, Satar, has demanded the pilots be taken to court. "Nobody gave the children anything, their rights are gone and the Americans didn't even compensate for the destroyed car. I sold it for $500 to spend the money treating them," he told Al Jazeera.
The Pentagon has said there is no reason to doubt the video’s authenticity, but that two investigations held after the attack have cleared military aircrew of any wrongdoing. It added the aircrew followed rules of engagement and their actions were appropriate.
The family of Saeed Chamgh, one of the Reuters employees killed during the attack, is also seeking justice.
Safa Chamgh, brother of Saeed, told Al Jazeera: "The pilot is not human, he's a monster. What did my brother do? What did his children do? Does the pilot accept his kids to be orphans?"
Saeed’s son, Salwan, said: "The American has broken my back by killing my father. I will not let the Americans get away with it. I will follow the path of my father and will hold another camera."
While Pentagon investigations suggest the aircrew had reason to believe the victims were part of an anti-government group, evidence in the video suggests “there’s a case to be made that a war crime may have been committed,” said Mark Taylor, director of the Fafo Institue for International Studies in Norway.
Taylor, who is also an international law expert, also told Al Jazeera: "There are questions about the way the investigation was conducted and whether or not it was done in a proper manner.”
Although the families might be able to receive financial compensation, there might be grounds for a much larger case.
"There are precedents of US soldiers being prosecuted for crimes in Iraq, for crimes of murder, rape and manslaughter. So it's not unprecedented that this could go forward both in military courts as well as in civilian criminal courts in the US.
"The case also raises larger questions about the laws of war. I think what this video shows is really a case that challenges whether the laws of war are strict enough," Taylor added.
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