Monday, April 16, 2007

2 Years After Her Death, Marla Ruzicka Remains an Inspiration

I mentioned in a post last Thursday that today is the anniversary of Marla Ruzicka's death. Marla dedicated her life to ensuring compensation for the families of innocent victims of U.S. military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than once, she risked everything to gain a firsthand perspective on the impact of U.S. military operations abroad, traveling to the frontlines of active combat. But for Marla, the information she would bring back and the legislation it inspired were worth the risk. These risks that she so bravely faced eventually took her life, as she and her colleague Faiz Ali Salim were killed by a suicide bomber in 2005. Marla was 29 years old.

Though her life was cut tragically short, her legacy lives on through the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC), an organization founded by Marla herself. According to CIVIC Associate Marla Bertagnolli
, "CIVIC started in 2001 when Marla Ruzicka traveled to Afghanistan and realized that the families of innocent victims of U.S. and coalition actions were not being helped financially by the U.S. She collected information and began working with Senator Leahy to get the funding to provide these victims with compensation. In 2003, she went to Iraq and brought back information to Leahy. Following her death in Iraq on April 16, 2005, Congress established the Marla Ruzicka Iraqi War Victims Fund. This fund gives money to small, community-based projects that help families who have been directly affected by U.S. and coalition actions."

CIVIC continues actively working toward smart and compassionate policies for war victims. "CIVIC is pushing for the military to create an effective compensation system that provides a larger condolence payment than the current $2,500 compensation," says Bertagnolli. "CIVIC is currently working with Senator Leahy on legislation to standardize payments to families harmed or caught in the cross-fire of U.S. military operations. A standardized system would ensure that the families of victims receive payments immediately after the death of their family member."

To honor Marla’s legacy, EPIC has partnered with CIVIC to build public support for the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S.594). Introduced by Senator Dianne Feinstein (CA), S.594 seeks to limit one of the world's most indiscriminate and deadly weapons: cluster bombs. In addition to Sen. Feinstein, the bill has found support among the following 6 co-sponsors: Senators Patrick Leahy (VT), Bernie Sanders (VT), Edward Kennedy (MA), Sherrod Brown (OH), Maria Cantwell (WA), and Barbara Mikulski (MD). If your Senators are not among these cosponsors, please take action today to ask them to cosponsor the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act.

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