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Amnesty's Silence

Re: the recent posting of the AI 'urgent action' on the bombings of Iraqi

It is great news that AI is taking up this issue, but I would urge all
those concerned about the situation in Iraq to lobby AI to take up the
sanctions issue as well. AI remains 'neutral' on the issue of sanctions (an
impossible position in my view). I have spoken to a representative at Human
Rights Watch and they take a similar line. I feel it is vital that such
international, respected, organised and resourceful bodies as AI and HRW end
their silence on sanctions, which after all are killing 250 people per day -
Amnesty declares that the taking of life is the ultimate abuse of human

Amnesty should be just as concerned about the damage that sanctions are
doing to Iraqi hospitals and patients as it is about the damage that bombs
are doing to them.

Myself and another member of my AI group have sent letters to AI on this
matter (having been told on the phone that the issue would require a change
in the mandate) but have received no reply after 2 months and follow up
letters. If people wish to see copies of the letters we've sent I will
gladly send them or post them to the list. I think these organisations need
a lot more lobbying, as their support and resources on this could be very

My intent is to send a letter every few days highlighting each time
a different humanitarian item which has been denied to Iraq by the Sanctions
committee. The letter also includes details of various sources for
information on the humanitarian abuses in Iraq (eg. UNICEF, UNFAO, WHO, WFP,
Denis Haliday, R Clark etc) - exactly the sort of sources they use to
compile reports for campaigns in countries where they can't get direct
access (eg China). The excuse of 'lack of resources' or sketchy information,
which is one I had from HRW, really cannot be justified under the mountain
of official documentation available to anyone with a large local library or
a computer terminal. I also intend to send such letters highlighting
individual abuses and detailing sources to HRW and the UK government, using
Elias Davidsson' and Geoff Simons' lists as sources.

I am an Amnesty member, and have brought the Iraq situation to the attention
of my local group, who, after a presentation by Mil Rai, unanimously agreed
to lobby AI in the name of our whole group. Inevitably there were questions
about whether AI's mandate covers the issue of sanctions, but members, a
number of whom are quite conservative about this sort of thing, were
relatively easily persuaded by presentation of the facts. A glance at the
Mandate on the AI website confirms that it easily covers the abuses of the
sanctions, clearly in five or six different parts of the document.

Indeed the document is so clear that the question becomes 'how can AIs
mandate *not* cover the sanctions?'

I believe that AI and HRW's silence on this issue when it is so vocal on
other issues like Pinochet or Kosovo or Turkey not only allows government
propaganda to go unanswered, but breeds suspicion that the suffering of
Iraqis cannot really be that bad. After all, if it was so bad, surely
Amnesty would say something?

I have spoken to other AI members from different parts of the country who
are trying to get their local groups to lobby AI as ours has done. I believe
this is vital. The AGM is being held in April, and it would be great to have
built up a head of steam before maybe bringing the issue up there.

If any other AI members are doing something similar or would like some more
information, I'd love to hear from them.

My tuppence worth.

Glenn Bassett.

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