The Right to Heal

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Sign-ons Needed: Support Call for Human Rights Hearing on Lasting Impacts of Iraq War

On March 19, 2013, the tenth anniversary of the US invasion of Iraq, Iraqis and US military veterans came together to hold the US government accountable for the war and its lasting effects and assert the rights of civilians in Iraqi communities and US veterans to heal. MADRE, Iraq Veterans against the War, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq, the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Civilian Soldier Alliance, Harvard Law School’s International Human Rights Clinic, and War Resisters League launched the Right to Heal Initiative and as a first step have petitioned the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) to hold a thematic hearing this fall. Some of the human rights issues we are raising are: the effects of widespread and severe war-related trauma, a horrific legacy sky-rocketing cancer rates and birth defects from toxic munitions, and widespread sexual and gender-based violence committed within the military and against civilians.

We are demanding:
1) reparations and accountability from the US government such as: remediation of toxic military sites; independent scientific research to assess health impacts and necessary and appropriate treatment; funding of health clinics for people impacted by the war’s toxic legacy; and acknowledgement of and redress for war crimes, torture, and other human rights violations.

2) that the US government provide care for its troops and veterans through full benefits and physical and mental health care for returning service members, many of whom were forced to serve in multiple tours of duty; improved services and access to justice for survivors of military sexual assault, enforceable protections against retaliation for seeking health care; and enforceable protection from chain of command interference in medical and mental health care plans.

We need your help:

1) We are asking individuals and organizations to sign on to a letter to the IACHR to demonstrate support for our IACHR hearing request. View the letter below.
  • If you are representing an organization that will sign on to the letter to the IACHR, please email
  • If you are an individual that would like to sign onclick here.
  • For translations of the sign-on letter in Arabic and Spanishclick here.
2) Please share our recently released short video Demanding the Right to Heal: US Veterans and Iraqis Unite. You can join the conversation on Twitter by using the #RighttoHeal hashtag.

Thank you for supporting the Right to Heal!
Sign-on Letter Text:

Emilio Álvarez Icaza
Executive Secretary
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
1889 F Street NW
Washington, DC 20006

Re: Letter in Support of Thematic Hearing on Human Rights Impacts of the US-led Decade of War

Dear Secretary Álvarez Icaza:

We, the undersigned individuals, advocates and human rights organizations, write to support the request for a thematic hearing entitled Human Rights Impacts of the U.S.-led Decade of War. We express great concern about the lack of accountability for the serious, widespread and ongoing human rights violations resulting from over a decade of the US-initiated wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The effects of these wars will be felt for a long time to come by those sent to fight them and by the communities where they have been fought.

In addition to the killings and casualties, and evidence of war crimes which have in many cases have gone unaddressed, these wars have had a lasting impact on the health of communities in Iraq and Afghanistan and on US service members.

In particular,
  • The US military’s use of certain munitions and burn pits has an apparent link to increasing rates of cancer, birth defects and other health issues in communities in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as among active duty US military personnel and returning veterans. For example, Haweeja, Iraq has seen a sharp rise in serious birth defects after a US base was installed and began testing munitions;
  • Failure to treat the physical and mental injuries suffered by service members has affected the service members themselves, their communities at home and, when redeployed, communities in the theaters of war;
  • Gender-based and sexual violence, as a weapon and by-product of war has had a deeply traumatic and wide-reaching impact on women and men in Iraq and Afghanistan as well as those in the military who have experienced military sexual trauma (MST).
The war in Afghanistan continues. In Iraq, a US-established government represses a growing civil society movement while selling off the country’s natural resources to multinational companies. Little has been done tobegin to address the myriad of human rights violations that have taken place and continue to take place as a result of the wars. We come together in solidarity with those most directly impacted by the wars to envision a different way forward: one that re-prioritizes the value of human life, health and dignity, and is committed to the principle of accountability, including acknowledgement of and reparations for the harm caused.

We therefore write to express our support of the request for a thematic hearing submitted to this Commission on March 19, 2013 by Iraq Veterans Against the War, the Organization for Women’s Freedom in Iraq and the Federation of Workers Councils and Unions in Iraq, represented by the Center for Constitutional Rights.

[Your Organization/Name]