The following is an archived copy of a message sent to a Discussion List run by the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
Views expressed in this archived message are those of the author, not of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq.
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Dear List, Much as I would have wanted this subject to be closed, I find myself compelled to go back to it, prodded by the exchange of unfriendly messages, and the increase in the heat which led to some boiling of blood. The subject has turned from an “amicable discussion” into personal attacks, where some took the criticism of AI personally. I was accused of “rushing to defend Ghazwan”, I suppose because I agreed with him that AI has failed with regards to the sanctions issue. I don’t deny that. But don’t I have the same right to defend someone who, in my opinion, is being wronged, in the same way like those who “rushed” to defend AI? After all, attacking Ghazwan is “personal”, while attacking AI is NOT personal… I agree with Glen that perhaps it is not helpful in anti-sanctions work to spend a lot of time and effort criticising Amnesty's record. But how helpful is it to the anti-sanctions movement to waste energy on the same issues of Halabja or the Ba’ath Party or the Iraqi regime? How relevant are those issues to sanctions and their lifting? I will try to explain my thoughts of AI, some of which will be repetitions. But since AI chose not to comment, and its defenders evaded replying to the questions and criticism presented, the issues have to be brought forth again. As to personal attacks, then I will not dignify them with a reply. I must first stress that I do appreciate the work AI has done and the difficult circumstances it works under. However, I am not one of those who believe in the sanctity of AI, nor of every report made by AI. I am not under any illusion either that AI does not take sides on different issues. There is no such thing as pure objectivity. No one disagrees that AI has not done enough regarding sanctions. I would like to think that the problem has to do with AI’s priorities not its principles. We all agree on the importance of the issues of human rights. But while the world has moved and new crises and issues have appeared, AI has not been able to adapt to those changes. We have been told, by members of AI itself, that after 11 years of sanctions (or like some call, complete blockade), AI is only now bending to its members demands to review its stand on sanctions. This looks strange to me, and this has been the main cause of criticism. In a report on Iraq dated 28 July 1999:” UN Security Council Considers the Humanitarian Panel's Report on Sanctions/ A summary of Amnesty International position and concerns”, AI states the following: ”Amnesty International does not take a position on the issue of sanctions as tools for influencing government behaviour. However, Amnesty International believes that the Security Council, as the body that has imposed sanctions on Iraq, has a responsibility to carry out periodic reviews of the impact of sanctions on the human rights of the Iraqi population.”. AI does not take a stand on sanctions?? Why not? The biggest crime of genocide is relegated to second or tenth place, while AI spends its time and effort on issues like rights of homosexuals, or the death of a hardened criminal in a Swedish jail. I am not belittling the importance of those other issues, but there has to be some sort of rational proportionality in the issues tackled. AI’s lack of stand on sanctions raises serious questions. Sanctions are a humanitarian issue, where the human rights of people (and in this case Iraq) are violated. AI MUST TAKE A STAND ON SANCTIONS. It is not enough for Amnesty International to believe that “the Security Council must take appropriate action on the recommendations of the panel it has commissioned on the humanitarian situation in Iraq with a view to ensuring that human rights considerations are fully taken into account.” How can an illegal and inhuman regime (like the sanctions) allow for considerations of human rights? And what does that sentence mean? To me it means that the principle of sanctions is acceptable to AI; it just doesn’t know how to go about admitting it…. Glen wrote: ”Amnesty, overstretched already, is now working on how it will incorporate some degree of Economic, Social and Cultural rights issues (including sanctions) into its work.” It is my belief that sanctions is NOT an Economic, Social and Cultural rights issue, but an important human rights issue, as much as torture and executions. If after 12 years, AI is only now considering how to incorporate “some degree of those rights” into its work, then something is basically wrong with AI... Glen also wrote:” Amnesty is not god. It is not omnipresent. It cannot see and know everything. It does not have unlimited resources to report on everything that may constitute a human rights abuse.” If that is true, then criticism of AI, especially when it comes from Iraqis on this list, should be tolerated, accepted, and replied to. Members of AI are all involved in forums and groups that deal with similar issues. The amount of information available is tremendous, and we all have access to this kind of information. Those members can relay information and studies to AI for immediate use. It is therefore not justifiable to blame AI’s lack of action on resources. AI has not identified sanctions as a major human rights violation. That is the issue. When AI does that, you will be surprised at how fast resources and people will be available.... AI does not argue the legality of the sanctions either. This matter has been tackled for many years by legal experts. The latest document was posted a few weeks ago by Elias Davidsson on the iac-discussion group (Some legal aspects of the economic sanctions against the people of Iraq). And it is not only the sanctions that are illegal, but all resolutions where any one of the permanent members of the Security Council has abstained. That is what the Charter of the UN states clearly and openly. AI does not condemn the bombing of Iraq, whether that of the 1991 so called “Desert Storm”, or the bombing since then. The attacks of 1991 were illegal, because resolution 678, used to justify military actions, was illegal, China having abstained from voting. The findings of the tribunal formed by Ramsey Clark give enough information about the war crimes committed by the Western alliance. These issues do not appear in AI’s literature, or at least I couldn’t find them. In its public statement on 13 November, 1998 “US/IRAQ - Amnesty International demands that protection of civilians be paramount”, Amnesty states the following: ”Amnesty international today expressed its fear that military action against Iraq may result in the loss of civilian lives. Life, safety and security of civilians must be the paramount consideration in any action taken to resolve the current crisis. Amnesty international takes no position on the use of force to resolve international disputes.” What do I read in this? First, that AI does NOT oppose military action in principle. Second, that AI does not object to the bombing of Iraq, which happened outside any UN mandate. Third, that AI does not object to the use of force to solve crises. Fourth, that AI does not care for the sovereignty and integrity of Iraq. Fifth, AI has wrongly understood the US/UK aggression as an international dispute. AI goes on to say:” The Geneva conventions and their additional protocol I prohibit any direct attacks on civilians or civilian objects…” AI seemingly forgets that the same protocols prohibit the starvation of people as a weapon in war, which is exactly what the sanctions are. Is AI reading international humanitarian laws and agreements selectively, or what is the reason for this dual thinking? AI goes on to “remind the government of Iraq of its obligation to take all measures to protect the civilian population.” It is indeed strange to throw some of the blame on the victim of aggression. How is the Government of Iraq going to protect its civilian population against an illegal aggression by two super powers? Nowhere does AI condemn the attacks or call them aggression…. Why is that? Is AI trying to show the US and UK that it is not taking sides? And someone wonders why an Iraqi criticizes AI??? In its News Flash on 16 February 2001 “Iraq: US and UK bombing of Baghdad”, AI states: ”Amnesty International is demanding immediate assurances from the USA and UK governments that they will fully respect international law and the human rights of the Iraqi people. Given well-documented concerns over the NATO bombing of Yugoslavia, and reports that civilians in Iraq have been injured, President Bush and Prime Minister Blair must ensure that Iraqi civilians are not targeted.” Once again there is no condemnation of the attacks, nor any call for stopping them. All the talk about “respecting international law and the human rights of the Iraqi people” is meaningless, as long as AI does not take a stand on sanctions or bombing. To Iraqis, this statement means that AI accepts the bombing, but asks that civilians be spared; of course it implicitly would mean that the US and UK may kill soldiers, even though there is no mandate for that act…. Many times now, AI has been accused of being a victim of Western propaganda, especially in the 1990 famous “Incubator case”. The whole case was an orchestrated fabrication. AI did its cause no service by rushing to believe in that invented story. It did apologize later on, but the damage was already done. It is my belief that the reason for AI’s lack of stand on these issues is the existing biases among the people who draft reports and make decisions within AI. I do not want to be personal, but if more of AI’s members have the same biases and fixed concepts about Iraq, the Ba’ath party and Saddam, as have been expressed here, I am surprised that AI has not made more blunders like the 1990 “incubator case”. Whether you like the regime or the leader should not be an issue when dealing with a crime against humanity, in the scale of the sanctions against Iraq. The sanctions have to be the main criteria, not personal opinions. I must once again ask Bert to allow me to borrow his words: ”however useful any theories, one's heart has to be involved". I said it before, and I have no reason to change my opinion: AI does not have its heart fully involved yet. That is the only explanation for why AI still doesn’t still have a stand on sanctions. If we take AI’s recent handling of the Palestinian issue, I was amazed to see AI treating Palestinians and Israelis equally guilty. For 54 years, Israel has occupied Palestinian and other Arab lands, oppressed its people, killed and deported them at will, confiscated their land and houses, kept on building settlements, annexed cities and towns, all in violation of international law and the UN Charter and numerous UN SC resolutions. It is therefore surprising to see AI condemning the legal and justified resistance of the Palestinians against this occupation and genocide. While AI admits that Israel may be guilty of War Crimes, it condemns suicide attacks against settlements. I find this utterly unacceptable. Whatever happened to the right of self-defense? Whatever happened to the “right of life” of the Palestinians, who are being killed by members of the same “civilians” from those settlements? Is a person who carries a machine gun, occupies your land, and shoots at you whenever possible considered a “civilian”? Should a war criminal be granted the same rights like his victims? Should an occupation force be granted the right to peace and security, while it continues to commit crimes? What kind of double standards is this? The occupied and the occupier equal in guilt??? The victim and the aggressor; the oppressed and the oppressor? Why does AI condemn actions of Palestinians against Israeli civilians, while it only “demands the protection of civilians” from the US and UK, without condemning their actions?? Glen wrote that AI’s investigation into Jenin led it to conclude that “many innocent people had been killed and that indiscriminate and disproportionate force had been used.” Does that mean that the illegal occupation, and the killings and assassinations as a principle are not the main concern of AI, only the proportionality of the use force? Does AI then support Israeli occupation of Arab lands? Again, when faced with criticism for it’s inaction, the justification is always:”the inadequacy of its resources in times like this”. How come only in times like these resources are scarce? How come when criticizing the government of Iraq, there is abundance of resources and eye-witnesses? AI, we are told, “has repeatedly called for a full-scale UN investigation”. Since AI keeps bringing international law into the arguments and its reports, why doesn’t AI call for the immediate Israeli withdrawal (according to international law) into the internationally recognized borders, a cessation of all acts of aggression against the countries in the area, and a full implementation of ALL UN resolutions. Only then, can AI demand security for Israeli civilians. As long as the occupation continues, resistance (including armed) to it is legally accepted by international law, and it would by hypocritical of AI or anyone else to demand that the Palestinians stop resisting. As long as Israel continues to kill civilians, AI has no right to demand that Palestinians not kill civilians in retaliation… And I would hope that when Glen talked about “Palestinian atrocities”, he was not calling the legal resistance to occupation atrocities… In its 05/06/2002 Press release “Israel / Occupied Territories / Palestinian Authority: International human rights observers needed to end the cycle of violence”, AI states the following: “The suicide bombing of a car which crashed into a bus at Megiddo junction at 7.15 a.m. on 5 June 2002 killed at least 16 Israelis and injured dozens of others. Many of those killed and injured were civilians.” This statement is NOT CORRECT. Most of those killed WERE NOT CIVILIANS, but soldiers. It is strange that AI could once again publish incorrect information. Perhaps AI relied on information provided by the Israeli Government???? The press release continues to state:” We condemn this attack and all targeting of civilians," said Amnesty International. "Such deliberate killing of civilians is contrary to the basic principles of humanitarian law." Why isn’t a similar statement issued when US/UK planes bomb Iraq daily, killing civilians and damaging property? Surely the same resources available to condemn Palestinians could be used to condemn the US and the UK. Or was Geroge Orwell right about some being more equal than others??? On 14 MAY 1996, AI urged the World Health Organization to support health professionals documenting human rights violations. I couldn’t find any document where AI urges the WHO to support documenting the damages caused by the use of DU shells by the US and the UK. AI has no stand on that matter either, in spite of the increasing evidence of the effects of that weapon. Why is that so, one would ask, hoping that AI would comment…. Another important issue, which has a human right dimension, is the issue of water. Turkey has been building dams and holding the water of both the Tigris and the Euphrates rivers, causing drastic water shortages in both Syria and Iraq. This is being done in spite of international agreements that prohibit such acts. This is not a “social or economic” issue, but an issue of the basic rights of humans, which Turkey’s actions are violating. Shortage of water is causing dislocations of people, death of cattle, and eventually human catastrophes. I couldn’t find a single reference to the water issue on AI’s web pages. If Iraq and Syria were to revert to force to resolve the issue, would Amnesty international refrain from taking a position on the use of force to resolve international disputes, or would it rush to condemn these “atrocities”? One only wonders…. I hope my remarks will be clear to all. I do not wish to continue discussing this issue, unless clear answers are given. I am not hear to defend the Ba’ath party or the Iraqi regime. I am expressing my views as an Iraqi, who believes that an organization that is not able to balance its acts, should be able to accept criticism, and correct its path. I don’t believe that I have written anything that is not based on facts taken from AI’s pages. How I interpret these statements is my right, just like each has his/her right to view things differently. Scandinavians have an interesting saying: “The sausage has two ends. You see one, and I see the other”. I hope that those who see one end will realize that there is another one…. Greetings Hassan _________________________________________________________ Find out where the hottest job openings are on Maktoob jobs. Go NOW. http://www.maktoob.com/ _______________________________________________ Sent via the discussion list of the Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. To unsubscribe, visit http://lists.casi.org.uk/mailman/listinfo/casi-discuss To contact the list manager, email firstname.lastname@example.org All postings are archived on CASI's website: http://www.casi.org.uk