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Iraq Human Rights Report

The latest annual report of the UN Special Rapporteur, Mr. Max van der
Stoel, on human rights in Iraq (referred to recently by Harriet in her
postings), can be found at 

Since Van der Stoel's reports are frequently mis/cited by the UK
government & its apologists, a few of my interpretative comments follow:

Max van der Stoel has not been to Iraq since January 1992. He works
entirely through the use of secondary material, reports, testimony &c.
This is because the Iraqi government refuses to let him visit,
contravening its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil &
Political Rights. So whilst this fact does not look good on the Iraqi
government, it casts some doubt on some of Van der Stoel's claims (as he
himself acknowledges: 2). This also explains why so much of van der
Stoel's reports are dedicated to the Kuwaiti missing persons (28 out of 88
paragraphs in this case).

The first third of the report concerns extrajudicial and
arbitrary executions, including the 'prison cleansing' campaign (2,500
prisoners have been executed since Autumn97); military action and
the use of assassination against the population of the so-called Southern
Marshes, and Shi'ites; and discrimination against Kurds.

The next third concerns the right to food, health care, and the rights of
the child. All the information here is collected from other UN reports,
especially the Secretary-General's reports. Van der Stoel appears
reluctant to apportion blame here; on the whole, he mentions the
problems caused by the international embargo in the same breath as the
inefficiency of the Government of Iraq: eg 43:

" the greater needs among the population of the southern governorates
..... are not adequately addressed either under the terms of the
"oil-for-food" programme or under other programmes administered by the
Government of Iraq from its other resources."

He repeatedly states that "all available resources have not been used to
ensure the enjoyment of economic, social and cultural rights" (eg at 82),
but of course this statement means nothing.

Note that it is not within the Special Rapporteur's mandate to investigate
abuses by other countries against Iraqi civilians. Nowhere does he (or has
he, in his other reports) say that the suffering is primarily the Iraqi
government's fault, as the UK government has claimed he said. Neither has
he made any comments about the continuation of sanctions - he could not
make such a comment, as his mandate is solely to investigate the Iraqi
government's actions. 

He makes the following points:
* The food basket has proved to be inadequate, with those in Southern Iraq
probably suffering more; however, the quality is improving due to the
government's recent addition of new foods to it.
* The inadequate supply of medicine is "mostly because of poor procurement
planning and stock management" (34). He does not say why he believes
this, and this conclusion cannot be derived from any of the other reports
he cites.
* Water supplies remain a major problem "because of the incompatibility
between supplies delivered and contracts signed, and the lack of cash,
transportation and qualified technicians required to implement the
programme." (35)
* Medicine distribution remains inefficient (no causes are mentioned);
however, in the case of "medicines for the treatment of leukaemia: there
have so far been two contracts approved by the 661 Committee (under Phase
III) which were only recently cleared for funding." (41).
* Criticism is levelled at the government of Iraq for not allowing UN
humanitarian observers full access to sites, and preventing random
interviews with Iraqi civilians.
* Childhood diseases, malnutrition and increased early entering of the
work market are recorded, but again, blame is not apportioned.

The final issue dealt with is the remaining 622 cases of missing people
from the invasion of Kuwait, 90% of whom are Kuwaiti. 6000 people who
were taken by Iraq during the war have so far returned to Kuwait (largely
through the Red Cross), and Iraq has given 'incomplete replies' about 112

Glen Rangwala
The Graduate Attic
Faculty of Social and Political Sciences
Free School Lane
Tel: 44 (0)1223 334535
Fax (shared): 44 (0)1223 334550
Home tel: 44 (0)1223 462187

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