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To: Human Rights Watch cc: CASI (Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq mailing list) Human Rights Watch posted an email to their their mailing list which I have attached to the bottom of this email. (CASI members: it's very interesting and worth reading.) I have IMMENSE RESPECT for HRW, but there are inconsistencies in their approach to the Iraqi situation which bother me. It's by time HRW took a convincing stand against sanctions. Therefore, their long overdue statement should, for the most part, be commended. However, I find the following issues quite irritating: 1. HRW has said a little, but not much, about the US/UK bombing of Iraq during the last year. Surely bombing people without a UN mandate constitutes a human rights abuse? (Not that bombing people with a UN mandate is necessarily any better.) Although it's difficult to determine the number of civillian deaths, there have been some well-documented incidents. HRW's response while not silent, has certainly been muted. Contrast this with their vociferous (and correct) response to Russian behaviour in the current Chechnyan war. 2. HRW says that the Iraqi government shares part of the blame for the increase in the mortality rate. This is possible, but seems premature given HRW's usual insistence on high standards of evidence before issuing accusations. No convincing evidence has yet been shown of systematic attempts by the Iraqi government to worsen the food and medicine shortage. 3. The HRW email calls for Saddam Hussein to be tried for his HR abuses, mainly because of horrific crimes committed in the 1980s. I have no problem with this in principle. (I am not sure about its practical consequences.) Since HRW has chosen to mix the distinct issues of the effects of sanctions with Iraq's past abuses, why does it not play an even-handed game and criticise Germany, Britain, Russia, the US and others for their supplying weapons to Iraq throughout the period of these worst abuses? 4. Why has it taken so long for HRW to write a letter to the US government regarding sanctions? The Richard Garfield and UNICEF reports came out months ago. Besides, there was overwhelming evidence long before these reports appeared of the horrendous effects of sanctions (e.g. the studies cited by Dr Garfield). 5. Some reputable sources have offered a fair amount of evidence that the allied forces used significant amounts of DU against Iraq in the Gulf War, that there have been civillian casualties as a result and that this contravenes various human rights standards. Since HRW's email (and their letter to the US government) seems to mention almost every category of human rights abuse committed on Iraqi soil during the last fifteen years, why is there no mention of DU in these letters? Regards, Nathan Geffen -------------------- RESTRUCTURE IRAQ EMBARGO, TRY LEADERS FOR WAR CRIMES (New York, January 5, 2000) -- In a letter released today Human Rights Watch urged the United Nations Security Council to tighten controls on Iraq's ability to import weapons-related goods, but lift most restrictions on non-military trade and investment in order to address the country's continuing humanitarian crisis. In the letter to U.S. Ambassador Richard Holbrooke, the current Security Council president, and the heads of other delegations, Human Rights Watch also called for the establishment of an international criminal tribunal to try Saddam Hussein and other top Iraqi leaders for war crimes and crimes against humanity. The letter charged that nearly ten years of a comprehensive embargo, coming on top of the 1991 Gulf War destruction of much of Iraq's civilian economic infrastructure, has created a public health emergency which the existing oil-for-food program and the resolution passed in December do not adequately address. A memorandum attached to the letter cites field reports by U.N. agencies and the International Committee of the Red Cross. "The most adamant proponents of comprehensive sanctions have always insisted that their quarrel is not with the Iraqi people," said Hanny Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of Human Rights Watch. "The time has come to put these words to the test." Prohibitions against imports of a military nature should remain in place, the group said, as well as end-use monitoring of commodities with military as well as civilian applications. The letter points out that no embargo, including the existing one, can ensure that Iraq does not get access to prohibited materials. It said that Iraq presently imports without significant restriction goods paid for with foreign exchange earned mainly from smuggling and remittances. It recommended that the U.N. offset the government's increased access to export and investment revenues under these proposed reforms by making all imports liable to inspection at ports of entry. "The scale of the crisis and the extent of the impoverishment require more than food and medicine and some spare parts," said Megally. "Even with the high level of funding of oil-for-food in 1999, life-threatening conditions still prevail. We agree that the Iraqi government bears a large share of the blame. But Iraq's callous manipulation of the sanctions is part of the reality that the Security Council has to take into account. Instead of being content to put all the blame on Baghdad, as the U.S. government continues to do, the Council has to face up to its own share of the responsibility. Blocking the government's access to foreign exchange is one thing, but choking the entire economy to do so puts the burden mostly on ordinary Iraqis." The letter also urged the Security Council to implement promptly the recommendations of the "humanitarian panel" it appointed last January. Many of these were part of the omnibus Iraq sanctions resolution adopted on December 17, but require further action by the Council or the sanctions committee. "These recommendations should not be treated as bargaining chips to be implemented only if the Iraqi government cooperates," said Megally. "They are the least the Security Council must do to fulfill its own humanitarian obligations." Human Rights Watch has extensively documented war crimes and atrocities committed by the Iraqi government, the letter said, and fully supports efforts to constrain and hold accountable those responsible. The group pressed the Security Council to establish an international criminal tribunal, like those already set up for Rwanda and former Yugoslavia, to indict and prosecute Iraqi officials for whom credible evidence exists of responsibility for such crimes. The group noted that such a step was entirely warranted on the basis of the evidence it has uncovered, and would help dispel any suggestion that addressing Iraq's humanitarian crisis implied leniency toward the government. Megally noted that half the non-permanent members of the Security Council have just joined this week, and urged them to promote a fresh approach to the Iraq crisis. Human Rights Watch said the Security Council had acknowledged back in 1990 its obligation to monitor the humanitarian impact of the sanctions, but failed to follow through. The group said that an impartial humanitarian body or a special rapporteur should examine the practices of both the Security Council and the Iraqi government that affect the humanitarian situation in the country. Copies of the letter to Ambassador Holbrooke and the explanatory memorandum are attached, and are available on the Human Rights Watch website at <http://www.hrw.org/press/2000/01/iraq-ltr.htm>. Individual letters were also sent to the heads of mission of the other members of the Security Council. __________________________________________________ Do You Yahoo!? Talk to your friends online with Yahoo! 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