Secretary-General Urges Exchange of Prisoners, End to 'Ruinous Conflict' between Iran and Iraq

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In transmitting to the Security Council the report (S/16962) on prisoners of war (POWs) and civilian detainees in the Iran-Iraq conflict, Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar stated that no effort should be spared to "ameliorate or end the continuing suffering of about 60,000 POWs, many incarcerated for years". In addition to compliance with the terms of the Third Geneva Convention, "an effective approach would be to seek an exchange of at least certain defined categories of POWs on the basis of understandings to be promoted with the two Governments concerned".

The Secretary-General said he was "fully prepared to actively investigate the feasibility" of that proposal, if both Governments indicated their "receptivity" to it. Such an attempt had become "vital". The plight of POWs, and other suffering affecting both combantants and civilians, could be ended effectively "only by the termination of the ruinous conflict that continues to inflict a heavy toll on the human assets, and also the material resources", of the two countries.

He reiterated his readiness to help in any endeavour that would bring peace to the people of Iran and Iraq.

The Secretary-General expressed his "deep dismay" and concern about the unanimous findings of the mission indicating that the fundamental purposes of the 1949 Third Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War were not being fulfilled. He attached "paramount importance" to the strict observance of all the principles and rules of international conduct. Any breach, particularly if it continued to occur, would have a "corrosive effect" that could "undermine the entire fabric of accepted international standards of conduct."

For that reason the Secretary-General stated, he was convinced that respect for the Third Geneva Convention must be restored. …