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Following is an open letter sent to the prime minister of Australia by the Australian Arabic Council, in response to the government's decision (announced on March 27, 1999) to send a navy frigate to the Arabian Gulf to join in the blockade against Iraq. ---------------------------------------------------------------------- OPEN LETTER TO PRIME MINISTER SEND SHIP-LOAD OF AID NOT WEAPONS TO IRAQ 30 March 1999 Dear Prime Minister, We wish to express our disappointment at the federal government's recent decision to send the HMAS Melbourne to the Arabian Gulf region to participate in enforcing the United Nations sanctions against Iraq. The UN sanctions extend far beyond military sanctions, and include food, medicine, and a vast array of ordinary household items and materials for essential infrastructure, which have no possible military uses. Many goods now under embargo are necessary for humanitarian purposes in Iraq, such as parts for the repair of sanitation systems, and some heart and cancer medicines. There is a large and growing world opposition to the sanctions because of the humanitarian catastrophe they are causing to innocent people throughout Iraq. However, from a military and political point of view, the sanctions which were only expected to last for 6 months when first established) are counter-productive to their stated intentions. They have greatly strengthened the power of the Iraqi president. They are severely debilitating and fracturing Iraqi society. Thus the enforcement of the sanctions has become futile. The situation is much more serious than this, however, when the genocidal effects of the sanctions are considered. United Nations and other reputable non-government organisations have estimated that over 1.5 million sanctions-related deaths, mostly of children under 5 years of age, have occurred since August 1990. The current estimated rate is 250 deaths per day. The sanctions are causing massive suffering and death among Iraqi civilians from starvation and preventable disease, and the country is now threatened by famine. The children who survive the debilitating sanctions are doomed to suffer further deformities and handicaps due to malnutrition and disease, for the rest of their lives. The usual justification for enforcing the sanctions is that the Iraqi president is responsible for the sanctions because he refuses to comply with UN Security Council resolutions. But why do we selectively and stringently enforce only such resolutions as apply to Iraq and not to other countries in the region? Why are we severely punishing the innocent Iraqi people for the actions of the Iraqi regime? There are numerous international laws and conventions relating to the proper treatment of civilians to ensure their basic human rights are respected. This includes the laws engendered in the Hague and Geneva Conventions, and recent protocols to the Geneva Conventions. These laws refer to the rules of 'distinction' and 'proportionality'. Under the principle of distinction, one must distinguish between civilians and combatants at all times, and only attack military targets. The principle of proportionality prohibits any "attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects...which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated". By the UN's own admission, well over half a million children have died as a result of the sanctions. Yet, no military or political objective has been achieved as a result of the sanctions. Not only do the sanctions contravene these international laws, but they also contravene the following conventions and charters: the Charter of the UN, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Constitution of the World Health Organization, the Rights of the Child, and the World Declaration on Nutrition by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. Lest Australia believes it is acting in the best interests of the UN and the UN Security Council, it must be noted that an increasing resistance to the sanctions, on moral and humanitarian grounds, is developing among most of the Permanent Members of the UN Security Council, and also within the General Assembly. It should also be remembered that UN Resolution 661, which established the sanctions in August 1990, specifically excluded food and medicines from the embargo against Iraq. Should Australia be party to such serious contraventions of international laws and conventions, even if it does suit the wishes of the US and British governments? Would it not be more appropriate for Australia to enforce the inalienable human rights of the 22 million innocent Iraqi people, rather than enforce an illegitimate policy of extreme, prolonged and widespread cruelty, through the UN sanctions? We do not want 'blood on our hands' over Iraq, nor do we want to tarnish our neutral image in the Arab world. It is a pity that Australia is sending a military ship, armed with weapons, rather than a humanitarian ship armed with aid for our fellow human beings. We ask our government to play a role as leader rather than follower in calling on the governments of the world to address their differences with the government of Iraq in ways which do not violate the human rights of Iraq's inhabitants. Yours sincerely, Dr Nabil Sulaiman Australian Arabic Council ______________________________________________________ Get Your Private, Free Email at http://www.hotmail.com -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To be removed/added, email email@example.com, NOT the whole list. Archived at http://linux.clare.cam.ac.uk/~saw27/casi/discuss.html