Former U.N. Human Rights Coordinator Speaks at CPAP

Article excerpt


On Dec. 7, the Center for Policy Analysis on Palestine, in conjunction with the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League, hosted former United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator Hans von Sponeck, who presented an update on the condition of the people of Iraq, still under severe sanctions after 10 years.

Appointed by U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan following the resignation of Denis Halliday, von Sponeck also resigned after a frustrating year trying to negotiate an end to the sanctions imposed by the U.N., largely at the behest of Britain and the U.S., at the end of the Gulf war a decade ago. According to von Sponeck, Resolution 687 calls for an end to sanctions once Iraq has completed all actions called for in the original plan. However, the U.S. and Britain then introduced Resolution 1284, which calls for a mere 120-day suspension of sanctions, followed by further review on Iraq's compliance. Though London and Washington called this a step forward, Iraq obviously called it a step backward, and von Sponeck agrees. Once again, von Sponeck said, the U.S. and its allies are using a position of power to change the rules of a game already underway.

UNICEF reports that child mortality rates are considerably higher since sanctions have been in effect: in 1999 up to 131 deaths out of every 1,000 children under five years of age, meaning some 50,000 children die every year. Von Sponeck continued quoting the chilling statistics, pointing out that 142 Iraqi parents suffer a child's death every day.

Von Sponeck did mention that, just a few days prior to his appearance, the U.N. had condemned Iraq for its human rights record, and he agreed with the condemnation. He pointed out, however, that Iraq's poor record did not give the outside world the right also to abuse the human rights of the Iraqi people, who now were being doubly punished, both from within and from without--but mostly from without. Though most European governments have come out (albeit weakly) against the continuation of sanctions as being unequivocally illegal under international law, the U. …


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