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Oral Intervention at UN Sub-Commission

Dear All,

The issue of the sanctions on Iraq will come up at the UN Sub-Commission for 
Human Rights which is in session at the moment here in Geneva. The NGO with 
which I am working as an intern, Franciscans International with Dominicans 
for Justice and Peace, made an oral intervention on Iraq deploring the 
sanctions at the last Commission for Human Rights last April. We intend 
making a similar oral intervention at this session of the Sub-Commission.

I have appended our oral intervention made in April to this message and the 
oral intervention we will make this summer should be reasonably similar.

We would be most grateful if any of you have any comments or suggestions as 
to how it might be improved. I should point out that we comment only on the 
humitarian aspects and not on the political by request of our members.

Many thanks in advance,
John O'Connor
Fifty-seventh Session
March 19 - April 27, 2001
Palais des Nations, Geneva
Item 13: Rights of the Child
Franciscans International, in a joint statement with Caritas Internationalis
the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Pax Christi International, the
Canadian Council of Churches, the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and the
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, in conjunction with Dominicans for Justice
and Peace,* wish to bring to the attention of the Commission the impact of
international sanctions as a follow-up to war and their harmful and
destructive consequences on children.
UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
According to article 38 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child,
states commit themselves to respect and to ensure respect for rules of
humanitarian law applicable to children. It also declares that State Parties
"shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children
who are affected by an armed conflict". Article 3 of the Convention declares
that “in all actions concerning children, ... the best interest of the 
shall be a primary consideration.” These articles are being systematically
violated on a daily basis as a result of more than ten years of economic san
ctions against the people of Iraq. The violations of the rights of Iraqi
children have been described in a number of UN reports and have also led to
the resignation of three senior UN personnel who were responsible for the
humanitarian program in Iraq.
Caritas delegation to Iraq
In January 2001, a Delegation from Caritas Europa, which was accompanied by
the President of Caritas Middle East and North Africa and hosted by its 
partner organization, Confrérie de la Charité, visited Iraq and published 
report on the devastating effects of sanctions on the people of Iraq.
The Caritas Europa report demonstrates how the sanctions against Iraq have
resulted in untold suffering for millions of people - physical, mental and
cultural. The report argues that the effects of the sanctions - even if they
were lifted today - will certainly be felt for many years to come. It is
indelibly imprinted on the Iraqi psyche. A once prosperous nation is
systematically de-developed, de-skilled and reduced to penury. The very
social fabric of Iraqi society is being rent asunder.
The overwhelming conclusion of the report, which is supported by Caritas
Internationalis, was that the current comprehensive sanctions regime imposed
on Iraq by the UN Security Council should be immediately suspended and a new
relationship initiated and developed by the international community
and Iraq.  Such a new relationship should lead to a situation where the
current chapter of immeasurable suffering is brought to a close.

US Dominican Delegations to Iraq

Dominican Sisters and Friars of the US visited Iraq three years in a row
starting in 1999 to see for themselves the ravages of the sanctions on the
people. At the end of their visit to Iraq last month, the delegation 
in a statement:
“During our ten days in Iraq we have witnessed the destruction of a land,
people, and culture, an action more insidious and far-reaching than any in
the history of the United Nations. Every aspect of Iraqi society and culture
has been adversely affected by the sanctions. In the 1980s, Iraq possessed 
effective universal health care system and universal free education, modern
telecommunications technology, and adequate power resources. The country had
sophisticated water treatment systems that met the needs of most of the
Now, after ten years, the Iraqi infrastructure can no longer bear the weight
of human need. Women of childbearing age and especially children continue to
suffer from high levels of malnutrition resulting in arrested development 
diminished capacity to reach their full potential. The air and water are
toxic. ..Those who suffer most are children, an entire generation who have
known nothing but war. Nearly 10 million Iraqis are under the age of
fifteen...What hope is there as a nation when sanctions deprive them of 
water, adequate nutrition, medical treatment and education?”
UNICEF reports
In spite of numerous reports from the International Committee of the Red
Cross, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the High Commissioner for
Refugees, the UN Development Program and many NGOs, nothing has been done to
put an end to the violations of the most fundamental rights of the children
of Iraq. The humanitarian disaster is such that UNICEF reports that more 
500,000 children under five years old have died as a result of the embargo,
between 1991 and 1995. There are still 5000 children dying every month in
The 1999 UNICEF report and mortality surveys show that in marked
contrast to the prevailing situation prior to the events of 1990-91, the
infant mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world, 
47 deaths/1000 live births in the 80s to 107 deaths/1000 live births in the
past decade.  Low infant birth weight affects at least 23% of all births,
chronic malnutrition affects 25% of children under five years of age, only
41% of the population have regular access to clean water, and 83% of all
schools need substantial repairs. The International Committee of the Red
Cross states that the Iraqi health-care system is today in a decrepit state.
UNDP calculates that it would take 7 billion dollars to rehabilitate the
power sector country-wide to its 1990 capacity.

Bossuyt Working paper
In its decision of August 1999, the UN Sub-Commission on the Promotion and
Protection of Human Rights requested Mr. Marc Bossuyt to prepare a working
paper on "The adverse consequences of economic sanctions on the enjoyment of
human rights" (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/33) which he presented to the August 2000
Sub-Commission meeting. In his paper, Mr. Bossuyt highlighted the serious
violations of other international human rights instruments which are also
applicable to the children in Iraq. In his paper, Mr. Bossuyt declared that
the sanctions regime against Iraq is illegal under existing international
humanitarian law and human rights law...The sanctions regime against Iraq 
as its clear purpose the deliberate infliction on the Iraqi people of
conditions of life (lack of adequate food, medicine, etc.) calculated to
bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part. It does not matter
that this deliberate physical destruction has as its ostensible objective 
security of the region. Once clear evidence was available that thousands of
civilians were dying and that hundreds of thousands would die in the future
as the Security Council continued the sanctions, the deaths were no longer 
unintended side effect - the Security Council was responsible for all known
consequences of its actions.” (p18-19)
The 2000 Sub-Commission, subsequently adopted two resolutions on human 
and the humanitarian consequences of sanctions, including embargoes
(E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/25 and E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000112).
Impact on children
A whole generation of children born after the war have been deprived over a
period of ten years of the right to adequate food which would allow them to
develop normally. According to the statements of some of Dominican members 
site, many families are forced to sell their houses, their furniture and
sometimes their own clothes to feed themselves. Further, the length of the
crisis has shaken the foundations of the traditional practice of families
helping each other. An increasing number of women find themselves alone to
raise and to meet the needs of their children. The economic sanctions have a
devastating effect not only on the survival of children, but also on their
moral, social and psychological development, in violation of article 27 of
the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In addition to the effects of sanctions, there is the effect of 
pollution in Iraq, in particular, of depleted uranium, which is chemically
and radiologically toxic. Epidemiological studies show that the increased
incidence of congenital abnormalities and defects, cancers in all age groups
are directly related to exposure to depleted uranium, either by ingestion,
inhalation or skin contact.
Further, over ten years a whole generation of children have been deprived of
normal access to education. The regime of sanctions has hampered the usual
supply of school materials as well as access to culture, to sciences and the
new technologies, which had been previously widespread.

The embargo which weighs heavily on Iraq has had a devastating effect on
civil society, destabilizing elementary social relations, both educationally
and commercially. This has been corroborated in reports by the specialized 
Most of the child victims were not even born at the time of the Gulf War.
These children did not die as a result of combat. These innocent children
died as a result of measures decreed by an organization whose mission was to
protect their peace and security. Because of the length of time that the
sanctions have been in place, they are no longer economic but constitute a
humanitarian problem. In harming and killing children over a period of ten
consecutive years, the sanctions have placed the future of a whole people in
peril. As recognized by the UN Secretary General, it is more than ever time
to reverse the process.
Mr. Kofi Annan on sanctions against Iraq
In his presentation to the Security Council on March 24, 2000, the Secretary
General of the United Nations Mr. Kofi Annan stated that the humanitarian
situation in Iraq posed a serious moral dilemma for the UN. He said: "The UN
has always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and has always
sought to relieve suffering, and yet here we are accused of causing 
to an entire population." Mr. Annan also expressed his  particular concern
about the situation of the children of Iraq who are the main victims of the
sanctions regime.
Franciscans International, in a joint statement with Caritas Internationalis
the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, Pax Christi International, the
Canadian Council of Churches, the Maryknoll Sisters of St. Dominic and the
Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, in conjunction with Dominicans for Justice
and Peace, and in harmony with the message of the UN Secretary General, the
call of Pope John Paul II and of the 1998 Synod of Bishops of Asia, 
ask the international community to take all means possible to bring an end 
the sanctions which are killing the children of Iraq and to guarantee the
respect of the rules of international humanitarian law in their regard.

* Also endorsed by the Mennonite Central Committee

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