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[casi] Statement of Amnesty International Secretary General on Iraq

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Friends -

          I offer below a thoughtful statement issued yesterday by the
Secretary General of Amnesty International, Irene Khan, on the human
dimension of the sanctions and possible war on Iraq.

Fred Dettmer

AI-index: MDE 14/011/2002     25/09/2002
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Human rights in the balance
by Irene Khan, Amnesty International Secretary General

Irene Khan

The human rights situation in Iraq is being invoked with unusual frequency by
some western political leaders to justify military action. This selective
attention to human rights is nothing but a cold and calculated manipulation
of the work of human rights activists. Let us not forget that these same
governments turned a blind eye to Amnesty International's reports of
widespread human rights violations in Iraq before the Gulf War. They remained
silent when thousands unarmed Kurdish civilians were killed in Halabja in

Not only have the people of Iraq continued to suffer at their hands of their
government - systematic torture, extrajudicial execution, "disappearances",
arbitrary detention and unfair trial - they have also borne the brunt of the
UN sanctions regime since 1991. Sanctions have jeopardised the right to food,
health, education and, in many cases, life of hundreds of thousands of
individuals, many of them children. There are claims that the Iraqi regime is
deliberately manipulating the sanctions regime for propaganda purposes - but
that does not absolve the United Nations Security Council from its own share
of the responsibility for failing to heed the calls to lift all sanctions
provisions that result in grave violations of the rights of the Iraqi

As the Council deliberates on the use of military force, it must consider not
only the security and political consequences of its action, but also the
inevitable human rights and humanitarian toll of war: civilians who will be
killed by bombing or internal fighting, children who will die because
sanctions will make access to basic necessities and humanitarian assistance
even more difficult. Yet, concern for the life, safety and security of the
Iraqi people is sorely missing from the debate, as is any discussion on what
would be their fate in the aftermath of conflict - and even less, what will
be the knock-on effect on the human rights of the people of neighbouring

As the keeper of international peace and security, the UN Security Council
has the responsibility under the UN Charter to seek a solution through
peaceful means first. It must remind its most powerful member that force is
the last resort and only to be carried out in full compliance with
international law. It must ask if we have really reached that point of
imminent danger which leaves no other choice. It must never forget that the
United Nations was created to preserve peace and promote human rights, not
encourage war.

<A HREF="">Further 
information on the human rights situation in Iraq</A>

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