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U.S. should stop pretending

U.N. Security Council Must Ease Iraq Crisis
Humanitarian Emergency Should be Focus of Friday Debate
(New York, March 23, 2000)

In a letter sent yesterday, Human Rights Watch and five other organizations
asked the United Nations Security Council to take decisive steps to address
the humanitarian emergency in Iraq. The letter urged member states to use
the Iraq debate scheduled for this Friday, March 24, to address the crisis
"in a thorough and transparent manner" and to give priority to fundamental
humanitarian and human rights principles in the design and operation of the
sanctions regime.

 "The Council should make Friday's meeting open and public," said Hanny
Megally, executive director of the Middle East and North Africa division of
Human Rights Watch, "and the U.S. should stop pretending that the sanctions
have nothing to do with the dire public health crisis confronting millions
of Iraqis." Megally also criticized the many "holds," which stop contracts
without rejecting them, that the United States and the United Kingdom have
placed on key Iraqi imports.

Related Materials

Restructure Iraq Embargo, Try Leaders for War Crimes
HRW Press Release, January 5, 2000

 The signatories of today's letter include Save the Children/UK and the
Mennonite Central Committee, which have ongoing humanitarian aid programs in
In early January, Human Rights Watch asked the Security Council to lift most
restrictions on Iraq's non-military trade and investment while tightening
controls on the country's ability to import weapons-related goods. The
organization, citing its own extensive documentation of government
responsibility for genocide and crimes against humanity, also called for the
establishment of an international criminal tribunal to try top Iraqi

The Security Council scheduled this Friday's meeting to discuss the
Secretary-General's March 10 report on the oil-for-food program
(S/2000/208). In that report the Secretary-General noted that an "excessive
number of holds" continued to impede the relief program and regretted that
the sanctions committee, made up of the Security Council member states, had
not responded to his earlier request that it provide "written and explicit
explanations" regarding holds within twenty-four hours (paragraphs 84 and

The Secretary-General's report cited as an example the hold on a harbor
dredger for the port of Umm Qasr, Iraq's major port of entry, an item whose
absence makes the offloading of vital food and spare parts slow and
inefficient (paragraph 72). "This appears to be an instance where concern
for potential dual use lacks balance and a sense of proportion," said
Megally, "It makes a mockery of the Council's stated concern for the
well-being of ordinary people."

Holds on contracts in the water and sanitation and electric power sectors,
the report said, have been a major factor impeding progress in the area of
public health, where emergency conditions persist. The International
Committee of the Red Cross, in a December 1999 report, said that the
oil-for-food program "has not halted the collapse of the health system and
the deterioration of water supplies, which together pose one of the gravest
threats to the health and well being of the civilian population."

A copy of the joint letter is attached.


Open Letter to the Security Council Concerning the Humanitarian Situation in

Global Policy Forum
Human Rights Watch
Mennonite Central Committee
Peace Action Education Fund
Quaker United Nations Office
Save the Children (UK)

To: His Excellency Anwarul Karim Chowdhury
President of the United Nations Security Council
cc. Security Council Member State Delegations

March 22, 2000

Dear Mr President and other Member State representatives:

We are writing to you to express our deep concern about the commitment in
the Security Council to improving the humanitarian crisis in Iraq. We urge
the Council, in its March 24 debate on the most recent report of the
Secretary-General on Iraq (S/2000/208), to address this emergency in a
thorough and transparent manner, to show determination to implement the
humanitarian provisions of UNSCR 986, 1153 and 1284 (1999), and to accord
the necessary priority to fundamental humanitarian and human rights
principles in the design and operation of the Iraq sanctions regime.

Our views are based on our long experience with Iraq issues, and months of
dialogue with UN agencies, diplomatic missions and other non-governmental
organisations. We believe strongly that humanitarian and human rights
principles have been consistently subordinated to political considerations
in the Council's approach to Iraq. We fully acknowledge that the Government
of Iraq shares much responsibility for the current situation, and continues
to pose security concerns. We are convinced, however, that the Security
Council, with the support of the Secretariat, must take swift and decisive
action to halt and reverse the longstanding humanitarian emergency in Iraq.

Firstly, the Security Council, should mandate the Secretariat to undertake a
comprehensive assessment of the humanitarian situation in Iraq, and should
facilitate the greater availability of existing information about the impact
of the Oil for Food Programme and the comprehensive sanctions. Towards this
end, the Council should authorise a greater degree of transparency and
accountability with regard to the decisions and procedures of the 661
Sanctions Committee on Iraq and the Security Council itself.

Secondly, the Council and the Sanctions Committee should encourage and
facilitate input and analysis from independent, technical experts from UN
agencies and other humanitarian organisations on practical ways of improving
the humanitarian situation. To facilitate this, information concerning the
humanitarian situation should be disseminated more widely.

Thirdly, the Security Council should hold an open and informed debate,
beginning with the March 24 meeting, that acknowledges the link between the
sanctions design and the humanitarian emergency. The ICRC has stressed
repeatedly that the increase in disease epidemics and the deteriorating
health situation in Iraq, is related directly to the disrepair of public
services such as water, sanitation and electricity, a situation that is
sustained by inadequate finances and the large number of items placed on

Fourthly, the Security Council must recognise that short-term emergency
assistance is no longer adequate or appropriate in Iraq, and longer term
infrastructure needs and investment must be addressed. The determinants of
the public health emergency have changed during the years under sanctions
but this has not been adequately reflected in a change in the design and
implementation of the humanitarian programme. The Oil for Food Programme has
at best halted further deterioration in basic nutritional and health
indicators in the Iraqi population, primarily through the delivery of food
and medicines. UNICEF has documented that the programme has failed to
reverse that deterioration in the Centre/South of Iraq, and that
unacceptably high mortality and morbidity rates persist. The health status
of the population is contingent upon public services that have now
deteriorated to such an extent that they undermine other health
interventions. The present humanitarian programme remains a temporary,
emergency, relief-driven operation that only partially meets vital needs. It
has fostered a culture of dependency and helplessness and isolated a whole
generation from the outside world. Inadequate both in terms of financing and
in design, it cannot address the current humanitarian needs and priorities
of the Iraqi population. If the Security Council continues to insist that
the Oil for Food programme remain a short term programme, based on relief
supplies, despite evidence of the long term impact of sanctions of Iraq's
war-damaged society, the Security Council will not be meeting its human
rights and humanitarian responsibilities.

Fifthly, all the humanitarian provisions of existing Council resolutions
must be speedily and fully implemented if the Council's stated humanitarian
commitment is to retain any credibility. UNSCR 986, 1153 and 1284 have all
mandated improvements which have yet to be fully implemented. In part this
is because of the Government of Iraq's lack of co-operation, but also
because of a lack of consensus within the Security Council. The Council, in
UNSCR 1153, recognised that infrastructure repair and a project-based
approach was just as critical as the delivery of food commodities to address
the unacceptable declines in health and nutritional status. The high number
of holds on individual contracts in the electricity, water and sanitation
sectors, which often have a wider impact on whole programmes, have clearly
undermined the impact of Resolution 1153. Unless pragmatic attempts are made
also to implement a cash component in the Centre in order to meet recurrent
costs, there will continue to be inadequate training, transportation and
service delivery.

Finally, even if all the already mandated changes were implemented, it is
doubtful that all the needed improvements could be secured under the current
structure of the Iraq sanctions regime. The deterioration in the country's
civilian infrastructure is so extensive that it can only be reversed with
much needed cash and investment in general infrastructure, and the oil
sector in particular. The present arrangement, moreover, unreasonably traps
U.N. humanitarian agencies between the demands of the Security Council and
the Government of Iraq. A shift to longer term development planning is now
vital. This should be combined with discussions of development plans
relating to the post-sanctions scenario, particularly with reference to
Northern Iraq.

Whilst not ignoring the ongoing security concerns posed by Iraq, the
Security Council must do all in its power to protect the fundamental rights
of the civilian population. We are therefore compelled to call for a radical
redesign of the sanctions regime to make the sanctions more targeted,
effective and credible. The current sanctions regime hurts the most
vulnerable and fails to touch Iraq's political leaders.

Yours sincerely,

James A. Paul
Executive Director
Global Policy Forum

Hanny Megally
Executive Director
Middle East and North Africa Division
Human Rights Watch

John Rempel
Liaison to the United Nations
Mennonite Central Committee

Tracy Moavero
International Office Coordinator
Peace Action Education Fund

Jack Patterson
Quaker United Nations Representative
Quaker United Nations Office

Carolyn Miller
Head of Programmes
Save the Children (UK)

Attachment: "Sanctions: International Law and Standards"

For more information contact:
Global Policy Forum: James A. Paul 212-557-3161
Human Rights Watch: Joe Stork 202-612-4327, Hanny Megally 212-612-1230
Mennonite Central Committee: John Rempel 212-673-7970
Peace Action Education Fund: Tracy Moavero 212-750-5795
Quaker United Nations Office: Jack Patterson 212-682-2745
Save the Children (UK): Andrea Ledward or Rita Bhatia 44-207-703-5400

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