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Saturday, May 25, 2024 | Back issues
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Court Snubs Iraqi’s Claim|for Home Ruined in War

(CN) - The Court of Federal Claims threw out an Iraqi citizen's claim for $6 million in damages after the U.S. military occupation of his home during the Battle of Fallujah.

Judge Christine O.C. Miller ruled that the court has no jurisdiction over the takings or breach of contract claims because the Iraqi, whose name was redacted by the court, allegedly made a covert agreement with U.S. intelligence operatives before the start of the battle.

"Vague promises of future compensation of an amount to be determined unilaterally by the United States do not constitute bargained-for consideration," Miller wrote.

As violent attacks ripped through the Iraq city of Fallujah in 2004, insurgents rigged many Iraqi homes with booby traps to kill coalition forces during house-to-house fighting. Reducing buildings to rubble also impeded the advance of these forces.

The plaintiff, who "professes to be a sheik and a man of considerable education and influence," claimed U.S. operatives contacted him before the battle started and asked for assistance, the ruling states. He told the court that U.S. representatives agreed to compensate him for "any inconvenience or damage sustained in the forthcoming military action."

U.S. Marines took control of the sheik's property in May 2004, providing him with a memorandum that stated:

"Be advised that the coalition forces are occupying your house and property without your consent. The coalition forces are in your home due to military necessity. We intend to be fair and compensate you for damages and inconvenience caused by our occupation. However, you cannot object to the coalition presence."

The plaintiff claimed he and his family relocated, and the Marines immediately razed a wall surrounding the property to ensure that insurgents could not use it to shield themselves.

The military said it occupied the property for three days, and then moved on to continue fighting, but the plaintiff argued his property was continuously occupied until October 2004, at which time the forces vacated the property without notice.

The U.S. acknowledged that the plaintiff returned to find his property had been "attacked, looted and destroyed by unknown persons."

An investigative panel found no evidence the U.S. military destroyed or negligently abandoned the man's home, but it approved a payment of $6,500 to pay for the fence and three days of occupation.

Miller said the plaintiff's takings claim is a novel issue since military necessity could preclude invocation of the Fifth Amendment, and since a nonresident alien like the plaintiff must present substantial connections with the U.S. to allege a taking of extraterritorial property.

The judge cited the enemy property doctrine, which absolves the United States from answering for the destruction of enemy property under the takings clause.

She also drew from a 1952 U.S. Supreme Court ruling, U.S. v. Caltex (Philippines), which found "many losses must be attributed solely to the fortunes of war, not to the sovereign."

Miller added that the plaintiff's claim for civil eminent domain authority was deeply flawed, and that he lacks standing to have his case heard in a U.S. court.

"The unfortunate loss of plaintiff's house is yet another addition to the long, sad catalog of wartime property losses that must be attributed solely to the fortunes of war, and not to the sovereign," Miller wrote.

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