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Economic Sanctions on the people of Iraq : First Degree Murder or Manslaughter? A paper by Denis J. Halliday for the International Conference in Madrid, 20/21 November 1999 On the recourse to economic sanctions and war in the new world order- INTERVENTIONISM AGAINST INTERNATIONAL LAW: FROM IRAQ TO YUGOSLAVIA Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends I am particularly honoured to be speaking at this the inaugural session of this conference. I am also somewhat nervous. Not because I am new to public speaking, but because I am a layman surrounded by distinguished international jurists. It is like being in the surf with sharks circling just beyond the waves. However, falling back on the concept that a certain bliss accompanies ignorance - I will briefly speak to the issue of United Nations economic sanctions on the people of Iraq as a case of genocide – a crime against humanity. I will also touch on the incompatibility of such sanctions with the spirit of the United Nations Charter and similar instruments of international law requiring, as a result, the establishment of some form of oversight in respect of the output of the Security Council. During my visit to Paris in January of this year, to speak publicly about the terrible impact of United Nations economic sanctions on the people of Iraq, I used the term genocide for the first time. I did so at a briefing for the press corps to describe a catastrophic situation that I had come to consider nothing less than genocidal. And it was picked up by some journalists and used for headlines in the Paris newspapers and then similarly by one or two international wire services. Thereafter, during that visit, I was made to feel by some that I had crossed an invisible line of impropriety! I was criticized by a few for using the term in regard to the impact of economic sanctions themselves. It seemed also that it was deemed inappropriate particularly in respect of Iraq. Since then I have observed that the term genocide offends many in western media and establishment circles when it is used to describe the killing of others in an environment for which we are ultimately responsible, such as in Iraq . To be even handed, I must admit I was praised by others for having said what I said. Perhaps for most, the term genocide is too emotive and too intimate to our democratic obligation to accept responsibility for even the most disagreeable actions undertaken by our respective governments. For others, it was no more than an overdue recognition of the crimes against humanity on going. I was certainly not the first to use the term genocide to describe the extensive loss of life in Iraq under present circumstances. Former US Attorney-General Ramsay Clark, the British author Geoff Simons and a number of British Members of Parliament critical of Labour Government sanctions and military policy, have employed the term to convey their perception of the Iraq situation.. Since the Spring of this year, the term has been used frequently by the establishment in the UK and the USA together with the mass media to describe the plight of Albanians in Kosovo and the killing of the people of East Timor. The first identification apparently justified NATO aggression and the by-passing of the United Nations, resulting in NATO missile attacks, use of Depleted Uranium shells and targeting of civilian infrastructure. Attacks that apparently served to increase the death rate of Albanian civilians. The latter, resulted in the international community taking action via the Security Council too slowly although in keeping with the national sovereignty provisions of the Charter. Clearly for these deadly situations despite their historical involvement, those in the establishment using the term genocide did not feel in anyway responsible. Only last week, I was reminded of this during a BBC interview. Others commit genocide, we do not. More recently, in a class I am teaching at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, we discussed the appropriateness of using of the term genocide to describe the human crisis in Iraq. We reviewed with some care the definition as set out by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. We noted the clear reference to the expression “intent” as being essential in any determination of genocide. In considering UN Security Council Resolution 687, we did not find “intent” spelled out in the text of 1991. No one questioned if the justification provided some years ago by the then Ambassador to the UN and now Secretary of State for the deaths of some five hundred thousand Iraqi children implied genocidal intent. The choice for the class in respect of the consequences of Resolution 687 was one between de jure, or de facto genocide, or as one student suggested, a choice between first degree murder or manslaughter. Thus the title of this piece. The class looked between the lines of the Resolution, but the majority of students gave the original drafters the benefit of the doubt, and likewise those member states that supported and continue to support the imposition of the uniquely comprehensive and devastating economic sanctions that Resolution 687 represents, particularly devastating coming as it did on top of the civilian-targeted bombing and missile attacks by the Gulf War allies. However, some including myself consider that by the deliberate continuation of the UN economic sanctions regime on Iraq, in full knowledge of their deadly impact as frequently reported by the Secretary-General and others, the member states of the Security Council are indeed guilty of intentionally sustaining a regime of genocide. The information provided by the various organizations of the United Nations system -FAO, WFP, UNICEF, and WHO- who have carried out surveys using international experts of infant and child mortality rates in Iraq under economic sanctions – underlines that we have de facto genocide. They have provided data showing the very significant increase in mortality rates over the years since Resolution 687 was imposed. We have also been given data by WHO showing significant increases in the deaths of adults, particularly amongst the aged in need of sophisticated drugs no long available in Iraq. We have WHO figures showing extraordinary increases in the incidence of various cancers, Including leukemia in children, since the use of depleted uranium by the UK and USA during the Gulf War. We know the sad human cost today in Iraq of unclean water, collapsed electric power generation and failed sanitation systems, as reported initially by the mission of then Under Secretary-General and now President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari in 1991, and many times since by UNICEF and WHO. The informally termed Oil-for-Food programme, which as you know is fully funded by Iraq via limited oil sales under UN auspices, was designed to prevent further deterioration, not more than that. The Security Council-approved but heavily constrained importation of limited and basic foodstuffs, medicines and drugs into the country, has done little more than maintain high mortality rates and massive malnutrition as the recent UNICEF report advised. Apart from considerable nutritional shortfalls, including lack of adequate animal proteins within that programme, we have not seen the Security Council allow oil revenues to seriously repair the damage caused by the bombing of Civilian infrastructure of 1991, 1996 and as recently as December 1998. By this denial, the Security Council has determined with deliberation to block adequate repair of water, power and sewage systems so critical in the battle to save the lives of countless infants and children. In other words, the Security Council through its member states has knowingly the necessitated that food be consumed alongside foul water, thereby creating a source for water-borne diseases leading to thousands of deaths, particularly of infants and children. Likewise, adequate hard currency has not been available for re-equipping of hospitals and other health care facilities; and agricultural food production capacity remains starved of essential imported requirements. In short, the Security Council has denied Iraq its right to adequately import and at the same time its right to repair, and rebuild that civilian infrastructure so critical for human well being, indeed for life itself. I speak of civilian infrastructure that was illegally destroyed in breech of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols by the Gulf War allies, in the first place. The Security Council has in effect illegality twice-over violated international law. Firstly, the targeting of men, women and children - noncombatants and civilians via missile attacks and bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure in 1991 and thereafter. And secondly, in an even more deadly and sustained manner of warfare, killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, and adults, by the ongoing regime of comprehensive economic sanctions. An embargo backed up by the massive military presence of the USA throughout the middle-East. A military presence not only intimidating to the women and children of Iraq, but equally to many millions of peoples and their governments throughout the Region. Whether one wishes to term economic sanctions no Iraq a form of warfare or not, crimes against humanity or not, the imposition of genocide or not, the sustained imposition of these sanctions constitute the punishment of millions, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, of innocent human beings. Whatever the terminology, whatever the semantics used, the results are indisputably contrary to the spirit and the word of numerous international legal instruments. With, or without original intent, the impact of economic sanctions constitute genocide. Whether it is de jure or de facto genocide, the semantics are irrelevant to those people of Iraq who have seen their children die, their parents die and their own health and the health of most, deteriorate into a state of physical malnutrition, a condition of near national depression and an environment of social collapse. The question posed in the title of this statement : Does the genocidal impact of economic sanctions on Iraq represent first degree murder as in intent, or manslaughter as in negligence resulting nevertheless in death? I leave to those here more competent that I. However, I would like to address one of the tragedies of the Iraq crisis, over and above the massive loss of life namely, the irreparable damage it has done to the integrity and credibility of the United Nations itself. By sustaining economic sanctions on Iraq in full knowledge of the deadly consequences, the member states of the Security Council have undermined the very basis of the Organization itself - the Charter. That is not to deny that the device of economic sanctions is provided for in Chapter 7 of the Charter - it is. One could query the intentions and goals in the minds of the victors of World War II when these provisions were drafted in1945, at a time when the infant UN was proportionally more heavily made up of large and powerful than small and weaker member states. Then, as it is today, the concept of economic sanctions, bilateral but also multilateral, is more attractive and viable to the powerful, the larger “bully boy” states, than to the smaller potential victims. Regardless, the prolonged and uniquely comprehensive nature of the economic sanctions on Iraq, and economic sanctions regimes imposed elsewhere in the world, have thwarted the very spirit and principles of the United Nations Charter – the preamble of which calls inter alia for the well being of all humanity. Likewise, prolonged economic sanctions neglect the rights spelled out in Articles 25 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, providing for individuals “. . . the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well being of himself (herself) and of his (her) family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services”; that “motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance”; and that “everyone has the right to education.” In reality, there are numerous international conventions neglected by the continuation of economic sanctions regardless of human cost, not least of which is the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These rights are intentionally denied every time an Iraqi child is without nutritious and plentiful food, a place in which to live decently, adequate medical attention and a good education. A sanctions generation of Deprivation has been created by the Security Council. The denial by the Security Council of the rights of an Iraqi child to have opportunities for the future, to life itself destroys what the United Nations is mandated to represent and facilitate throughout the world. Combating this incompatibility between the Charter and instruments of international law with the impact of Security Council Resolution 687, would appear to call for several actions. One might be an initiative by the larger, fully representative and more democratic General Assembly to seek the advice of the International Court of Justice and by so doing, begin to meaningfully assert its oversight function in respect of the work of the powerful yet small and less democratic Security Council. Another might be the establishment of an NGO to watch the impact of Security Council resolutions world wide and to monitor their incompatibility with the Charter, Universal Declaration of Human rights and other international legal instruments. In conclusion, the de facto genocidal impact of the regime of economic sanctions no the people of Iraq, violate the legal instruments that are fundamental to the credible continuation of the United Nations. The Organisation urgently needs the protection of an oversight device or devices in regard to the output of the dangerously out-of-control Security Council. In the meantime, men and women of conscience, with moral posture and integrity will continue to demand the termination of crimes against humanity, indeed genocide, in respect of Iraq. November 1999 "To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places - and there are so many - where people have behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don't have to wait for some grand utopian future. The future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory." --Howard Zinn (You Can't Be Neutral on a Moving Train: A personal history of our times, p. 208) -- ----------------------------------------------------------------------- This is a discussion list run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq For removal from list, email firstname.lastname@example.org Full archive and list instructions are available from the CASI website: http://welcome.to/casi