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UK government response to Committee report on "The Future of Sanctions"

On 10 February the House of Commons Select Committee on International
Development (the Committee) released its report, The Future of Sanctions
(the Report).  While the Government usually responds to Select Committee
reports within two months, their Response to this report has only just
been published now.  This, I am told, reflects the number of government
departments involved in drafting the response.  CASI's website
( links to both of these documents.  They may be
found by following the "Info Sources" link on the sidebar and then looking
for "The British government".

The Government Response addresses each paragraph of the Committee Report
in the order raised in the Report.  I excerpt some of the main points from
the Response, especially those applying to Iraq.  I do not comment on the
Response other than to note now that it signals no willingness to admit
responsibility for the consequences of its policies in Iraq or interest in
changing them.  I have only limited my editorial remarks in the interests
of time this evening; I certainly hope that the Response will be discussed
by this discussion group.

Colin Rowat

Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq               fax 0870 063 5022
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Summary of Response as it bears on Iraq ----------------

"The Government fully agrees with the conclusion of the Committee that the
responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people must ultimately lie with
the Iraqi leadership".  Humanitarian exemptions, it explains, were built
into the sanctions from 1990, but the Iraqi government has refused to
comply with its obligations.  The Iraqi government hindered the 1991
"proto-oil-for-food" and delayed implementation of "oil for food" in 1995.
The government of Iraq has failed to act on recommendations by the UN in a
variety of ways and otherwise does not take all steps that it might to
improve the humanitarian situation.

"The Government does not accept the claim that sanctions do not impact on
the Iraqi regime" but does admit that "there is evidence of the regime
using resources for the benefit of the elite and not the majority".

"The Government fully shares the Committee's concerns about the
humanitarian situation in Iraq and agrees that the international community
has a responsibility to the Iraqi people".  The response then explains the
benefits of SCR 1284, passed in December as a result of British efforts.
"The resolution also offers Iraq the prospect of the suspension of
sanctions if it co-operates. Iraq and its allies often claim that Iraq has
nothing to hide. If that is so, then Iraq has everything to gain by
accepting resolution 1284".

In the same sentence that it "shares the Committee's concerns over the
high rates of child and maternal mortality which are being reported" it
notes "that any statistics are dependent on Government of Iraq input and
that UNICEF's figure is based on the considerable assumption that, were it
not for sanctions, the substantial reduction in death rates in under fives
in the 1980s would have continued throughout the next 10 years".

The Committee's concern about the lack of information of the consequences
of the sanctions on Iraq is turned into an appeal to the government of
Iraq to "to allow greater access by NGOs"

On the human rights situation in Iraq, it reports on the findings of the
UN Special Rapporteur, who recently concluded that "he had observed no
improvement in the situation of human rights in Iraq. In fact the overall
human rights situation was worsening".

"The Government shares the view that Saddam Hussein and other members of
his regime should be brought to account for the atrocities they have
committed over the years. The Government supports INDICT and other
organisations which seek to bring them to justice".

While recognising that "every effort should be made by the international
community, when imposing future sanctions regimes, to ensure that these
are carefully designed to have the maximum impact on the target regime,
while minimising the risk of harm to ordinary people" it concludes that
"In the case of Iraq, comprehensive economic sanctions have, for the past
nine years, significantly reduced the threat from Saddam Hussein and his
weapons of mass destruction".

In response to the Committee's recognition "that sanctions, unless
carefully targeted, have the capacity to kill more children than armed
warfare" and its call for the use of "International human rights
instruments" to measure and justify sanctions regimes, the Response,
"agrees that sanctions regimes should always be designed to be in
conformity with international human rights instruments".

"The Government takes financial sanctions very seriously, and expends
considerable effort in implementing them. Standards of implementation are
already high, but we are nonetheless constantly reviewing how its
effectiveness might be enhanced."

"The Government has no powers to sequestrate or to seize Iraqi assets; we
only have powers to freeze them. The Bank of England has acted promptly
upon all information received in its quest to freeze the funds of the
Iraqi regime, and as of December 1999 746 million US dollars in Iraqi
assets in the UK had been frozen."

Discussing the importance of assisting post-sanctions countries'
reintegration, the Response explains that, "[w]hen sanctions on Iraq are
lifted, the initial need for outside assistance will be partly offset by
the country's large oil resources. The international community will want
to ensure at that time that adequate humanitarian supplies are reaching
those who need them. The Government of Iraq will need to allow greater
access to Iraq by NGOs for a comprehensive reconstruction programme to
operate effectively".

In general, the Government believed that time-limited sanctions were
"unlikely to be effective."

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