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[casi-analysis] Humanitarian law groups' petition at OAS officially registered

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Dear friends,

just got the message from Karen Parker that the Organization of American States (OAS) has 
officially registered the lawsuit, given it a number: "Petition No. P-1258-04 United States."and 
are investigating the case.

This action should reach the international press as soon as possible. So spread the news ! Couldn't 
this be published in the Guardian? Or translated in Arabic and

Karen Parker has successfully sued the US over the Grenada invasion (she won the case). She has 
co-written the report of Marc Bossuyt about US Sanctions: The adverse consequences of economic 
sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights, Working paper prepared by Mr. Marc Bossuyt (for the 
United Nations' Economic and Social Council)
And more: read some of her biography:
She also was a prosecutor at the BRussells Tribunal. Her contact info is underneath.
In solidarity.
Dirk Adriaensens.



OAS HAS REGISTERED THE LAWSUIT: "Petition N P-1258-04 United States".

            Los Angeles-based Humanitarian Law Project/International Educational Development 
(HLP/IED and San Francisco-based Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL), submitted a petition to 
the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of American States on behalf of 
"unnamed, unnumbered patients and medical staff both living and dead" at the medical facilities in 
Falluja. The OAS has registered the lawsuit, given it a number: "Petition No. P-1258-04 United 
States." and are investigating. The Commission had authority to investigate human rights violations 
committed by a member State of the OAS and to seek remedies for victims.

            "Attacks on hospitals and medical personnel are truly shocking. We hope that this will 
result in the immediate improvement of the situation of the patients and staff, to additional 
remedies for these victims, and an end to the United States violations of human rights and the 
Geneva Conventions in Iraq," stated Lydia Brazon, Executive Director of the United Nations 
credentialed HLP/IED.

            The Geneva Conventions prohibit attacks on any medical facility or medical personnel, 
whether civilian or military. "Imagine the outrage if the opposition in Iraq attacked one of the 
medical facilities for American wounded. There would be calls for war crimes tribunals," stated 
Karen Parker, the attorney in this action. "Rather than being "quaint" as administration 
Attorney-General nominee Gonzales has said, the Geneva Conventions and human rights agreements are 
meant to prevent acts of barbarity in war. Besides preventing atrocities, they are meant to protect 
GIs from the psychological damage that afflicts people who carry out this type of action."

In addition to the evidence already attached to their document, the Petitioners will submit New 
York Times photographer Shawn Baldwin's photograph of patients lying on the floor with their hands 
tied behind their backs, and a number of other photos and stories about the tragedy. They also 
informed the Commission that weapons containing depleted uranium, declared illegal weapons by a 
United Nations human rights body, might have been used near the hospitals, placing the victims at 
further risk of serious harm.

            The Petition was filed under the Commission's emergency provisions, enabling the 
Commission to order the United States to undertake measures to prevent "irreparable harm" to 
victims. The Petitioners also requested the Commission to visit Falluja for a first-hand assessment.

Contact: Karen Parker: 415.668.2752 / 415.533.1066 -















Karen Parker

154 Fifth Avenue

San Francisco, CA 94118

415.668.2752 tel. and fax

415.533.1066 cell

Attorney for Petitioners











Tab 1. Statement of Louise Arbour,

United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, 16 November 2004.

Tab 2. B. Dominick, "In Fallujah, U.S. Declares War on Hospitals, Ambulances," The New Standard 
(Australia), 12 November 2004.

Tab 3. "Aid convoy barred from "starving" Falluja," Al-Jazeera, 15 November 2004.

Tab 4.  M. Georgy, K. Sengupta, H. McGavin, [News stories],  The Independent (UK), 15 November 2004.

Tab 5. United Nations, Emergency Working Group -- Falluja Crisis, "Up-date Note," 11 November 2004 
and 13 November 2004.

Tab 6. "Hospitals hit as fighting rages in Falluja," Al -Jazeera, 9 November 2004.


            On Sunday, 7 November 2004, troops belonging to the United States Special Forces seized 
the Falluja General Hospital in Falluja, Iraq. The hospital patients were taken from their rooms, 
ordered to lie on the floor and they had their hands bound behind their backs. There are also 
credible reports that a medical clinic was attacked, killing 20 doctors and unnumbered patients. 
Survivors are presumed in urgent need of attention. Organizational Petitioner files this Petition 
on an emergency basis as provided by Article 25 of the Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American 
Commission on Human Rights (Rules). Organizational Petitioners allege that the reports of the 
impact of that attack on patients and medical staff, in conjunction with current conditions at the 
hospital and clinic, if true, justify Article 25 remedies and constitute violations of Articles I 
(right to life, liberty and personal security); Article V (right of freedom from abusive attacks on 
personal life); Article XI (right to preservation of health and well-being); and Article XXV (right 
to protection from arbitrary arrest) of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, 
adopted by the 9th International Conference of American States (1948)(American Declaration).

            The United States is a member of the Organization of American State and is therefore 
bound by the American Declaration.

            Petitioners have not raised the issues presented herein in a forum that would invoke 
the duplication doctrine set out in Article 33 of the Rules.


            The Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL) is a California Organization duly 
registered with the California Secretary of State, and has private, non- profit status under United 
States law. Formerly known as International Disability law, its mission is to educate about and 
seek compliance with human rights and humanitarian law. AHL specifically seeks to protect the 
rights of persons injured or disabled in armed conflict and to protect medical personal, medical 
facilities and medical supplies from harm.


            Organizational Petitioner alleges that it complies with Article 23 of the Rules, which 
allows petitions on behalf of third persons by groups legally recognized in a member State of the 
Organization of American States. Organizational Petitioner assets that the to-date unnamed and 
unnumbered Individual Petitioners are precisely the persons that AHL seeks to protect and that the 
acts in questions are those that AHL seeks to prevent or remedy.


            Article 25 of the Rules provides for measures to be undertaken in emergency situations. 
This rules provides, in pertinent part:

1. In serious or urgent cases, and whenever necessary according to the information available, the 
Commission may, on its own initiative or at the request of a party, request that the State 
concerned adopt precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to persons.

Organizational Petitioner is convinced that the situation is sufficiently grave to assume that 
surviving Individual Petitioners are at great risk of loss of life and other irreparable harm.


            Petitioners allege excuse from exhaustion of domestic remedies as required by Article 
31 of the Rules because this is an urgent case governed by Article 25 of the Rules. Petitioners 
also assert that United States domestic law does not provide remedies for victims of violations of 
human rights that occur during armed conflict and will make a showing of that if so requested by 
the Commission.


            Respondent State does not deny that at about 10:00 p.m. Sunday, November 7, 2004 its 
Special Forces stormed Falluja General Hospital, and both patients and staff were ordered to sit or 
lie down. Their hands were then bound behind their backs. The front page of the San Francisco 
Chronicle, November 8, 2004 has a photograph taken by N.Y. Times photographer Shawn Baldwin at the 
hospital showing the United States forces guarding a number of patients who are lying on the floor 
with their hands bound. This operation was admitted by Respondent to be among the first one 
undertaken by its military forces in its goal of seizing Falluja away from the hands of the enemy. 
There is strong evidence to indicate loss of life, injury, worsening of medical condition and other 
ills for the patients and staff at this hospital due to the conduct of Respondent.

Petitioners allege that the information regarding the clinic is sufficiently reliable to indicate 
that the Respondent's military forces carried out an aerial bombardment on a medical trauma clinic, 
killing perhaps up to twenty doctors and unnumbered patients. In this regard Reuters has issued a 
photograph of a sign reading "Nazzai Emergency Hospital" that is all that remains of that facility 
and two adjacent building used my medical care providers. The opposition forces have no capacity 
for aerial attacks.[1] American officials have allegedly defended these acts by claiming that 
Falluja General Hospital is an "enemy field hospital" but Petitioners assert that facts available 
to the Respondent clearly indicate that this facility is a civilian one, and statements issued at 
other times by Respondent indicates this knowledge.[2]

            There are numerous accounts, as well as photographs,[3] of American forces shooting at 
or destroying ambulances.

On Monday, November 15, 2004 the Iraqi Red Crescent allegedly tried to bring badly needed supplies 
to injured civilians, including the patients, but were barred from doing so. Its convoy retreated 
to the surrounding camps of internally displaced persons.

There is clear evidence that Abrams tanks are being used in military attacks near and around the 
medical facilities, thereby possibly further endangering patients and remaining medical staff as 
these tanks have been used to fire weapons containing depleted uranium. Depleted uranium weapons 
are radioactive, have a devastating effect on life and health of all persons in the area, and will 
continue to have a deadly effect long after the conflict is over. It is for this reason that in 
1996 the United Nations Sub-Commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights found use of 
these weapons "incompatible" with existing human rights and humanitarian law standards.

The urgency of the situation is indicated by an appeal of the United Nations High Commissioner for 
Human Rights, who issued a statement in this regard.


            Petitioners allege the above acts show violations of Articles I (right to life, liberty 
and personal security); Article V (right of freedom from abusive attacks on personal life);

Article XI (right to preservation of health and well-being); and Article XXV (right to protection 
from arbitrary arrest)

War can provide an exception to certain of these rights. For example, an enemy soldier killed in 
battle does not have a right of action under the right to life provisions in human rights law. In 
some instances civilian casualties may be viewed as "incidental" ones and not, therefore, 
violations of either human rights or humanitarian law. However, when a military force carries out 
an illegal military action, then the resulting violations are simultaneously violations of human 
rights and humanitarian law. Thus, in order for the Respondent Government to defend against the 
charges brought by Petitioners, applicable humanitarian law must be consulted to see if there are 
exceptions that relate to this Petition. There are not.

The violations alleged by Petitioner result from military operations that are specifically 
forbidden in applicable humanitarian law. Article 18 of Geneva Convention IV of 1949 provides, in 
pertinent part:

   Civilian hospitals organized to give care to the wounded and sick, the infirm and maternity 
cases, may in no circumstances be the object of attack, but shall at all times be respected and 
protected by the Parties to the conflict.

Article 19 of the same convention provides:

   The protection to which civilian hospitals are entitled shall not cease unless they are used to 
commit, outside their humanitarian duties, acts harmful to the enemy. Protection may, however, 
cease only after due warning has been given, naming, in all appropriate cases, a reasonable time 
limit, and after such warning has remained unheeded.

    The fact that sick or wounded members of the armed forces are nursed in these hospitals, or the 
presence of small arms and ammunition taken from such combatants which have not yet [been] handed 
to the proper service, shall not be considered to be acts harmful to the enemy.

            The facts clearly show that Falluja General Hospital was at all times a civilian 
hospital and that the Respondent had to have known this. Further, Respondent has publicly admitted 
that the attack on Falluja General Hospital was a key part of its first phase of military 
operations to seize Falluja. Various accounts attribute a rational of preventing opposition forces 
from obtaining medical care. In any case, there was clearly no Article 19 warning. And while some 
enemy wounded were in the hospital, Article 19 provisions to not allow that facts to be construed 
an act harmful to the enemy. Thus, the Respondent may not invoke an exception to the right to life 
and security of the person and other American Declaration Article I rights.

            Even if Falluja General Hospital were an enemy field hospital, Respondent could not 
legally carry out what it did. This is clear from Article 19 of Geneva Convention I of 1949, which 
provides, in pertinent part:

   Fixed establishments and mobile medical units of the [enemy's] Medical Service may in no 
circumstances be attacked, but shall at all times be respected and protected by the Parties to the 

            Petitioners further conclude that the attacks on the medical facilities show violations 
of the right to freedom from abusive attacks as provided in Article V, violations of the right to 
health as provided in Article XI, and, as many patients and doctors were detained for some periods 
of time, a violation of the right freedom from arbitrary arrest as provided in Article XXV. The 
failure of the United States to provide for or allow provision for immediate, emergency relief for 
the unnamed, unnumbered Petitioners is an on-going violation of Article XI, and places them all at 
great risk of loss of live, irreparable harm and further violations. The possible use of illegal 
weapons containing depleted uranium would  indicate an aggravated violation of the right to health 
and well-being as hospital patients would likely be particularly effected by exposure to DU 


          Petitioners respectfully request the Commission to take appropriate action on this 
Petition with due consideration of the urgency of the matter. At a minimum, Petitioners urge the 
Commission to require of the Respondent full compliance with the American Declaration as it is to 
be interpreted during armed conflict invoking humanitarian law. Petitioners also request the 
Commission consider an on-site investigation under its

Applicable authority. Petitioners also request leave to submit additional documentation as this 
becomes available, and asserts a willingness to address any issue raised by the Commission for 
further examination or argument.

Respectfully submitted,

Karen Parker, J.D.

Attorney for Petitioners


[1] Petitioners assume that Nazzai Emergency Hospital is the "trauma clinic" referred to in other 
accounts, but it may be that two clinics were attacked.

[2] As will be apparent under the discussion of the violations, Petitioners would still file this 
Petition even if Falluja General Hospital were an "enemy field hospital."

[3] Petitioners are collecting photographs that will be submitted separately.

[4] If the facts show that DU weapons were in fact used in Falluja, Petitioners will provide the 
Commission with United Nations resolutions and reports on these weapons.

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