Iraq to pay $400m to settle abuse claims by Americans
BAGHDAD — Iraq has agreed to pay about $400 million to Americans who say they were abused by Saddam Hussein’s regime, US and Iraqi officials said yesterday.
The agreement, recently signed by US and Iraqi officials, represents a significant step forward for Iraq and could bring an end to years of legal battles by Americans who claim to have been tortured or traumatized under Hussein’s regime.
But the deal is likely to anger Iraqis who consider themselves the victims of both Hussein and the 2003 US invasion, and who wonder why they should pay money for wrongs committed by the ousted dictator.
The American Embassy spokesman in Iraq, David Ranz, said the agreement “to settle claims of American victims of the Saddam Hussein regime,’’ was signed Sept. 2. He did not identify the claimants or the dollar amount involved.
A senior Iraqi government official confirmed that the deal has been signed, and said Iraq agreed to pay about $400 million. He said the money will be given to Americans who were affected by the Iraqi invasion of neighboring Kuwait in 1990.
Hussein’s government held hundreds of Americans hostage during the run-up to the Gulf War, using them as human shields in hopes of staving off an attack by the United States and its allies.
Many of the Americans pursued lawsuits for years against Hussein’s government. The Americans kept up their legal fight after Hussein was overthrown in 2003 and a new government came to power. CBS News correspondent Bob Simon, who was held for more than a month during the Gulf War, was one of the people suing Iraq.
The Iraqi official did not specify who would receive money from the settlement, but said the deal was connected to the Gulf War.
“This agreement is related to the invasion of Kuwait during the former regime time. Saddam detained US citizens as human shields, and he did torture,’’ said the official, who did not want to be named due to the sensitivity of the issue.
The settlement, which was first reported by the Christian Science Monitor, could help Iraq shake off UN sanctions imposed after Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait. Baghdad would need the help of the United States to remove the sanctions, and the settlement may remove what has been a stumbling block between the two sides.
Ranz said Iraq must still go through several unspecified steps to finalize the agreement.