Iraq's Human-Rights Toll Violations Should Spur an International Effort to Protect Rights

By M. Cherif Bassiouni. M. Cherif Bassiouni is a professor of law and president of the DePaul University International Human Rights Law Institute . | The Christian Science Monitor, November 26, 1990 | Go to article overview

Iraq's Human-Rights Toll Violations Should Spur an International Effort to Protect Rights


M. Cherif Bassiouni. M. Cherif Bassiouni is a professor of law and president of the DePaul University International Human Rights Law Institute ., The Christian Science Monitor


THE United Nations Security Council's recent denunciation of Iraqi human-rights violations is neither effective nor enough. What is needed from the UN and from the world community are not political denunciations, but permanent, impartial, and effective means to protect human rights, without distinction as to perpetrators or victims.

A permanent international commission of inquiry should immediately be formed to investigate all human-rights violations - particularly cases of Iraqi policies and practices that violate the most elementary norms of human decency. These include: murder, torture, beating, physically and psychologically degrading treatment, pillage, robbery, theft, arbitrary arrest, detention, and expulsion.

These practices are carried out by Iraqi military and police personnel and even by civilians. They are directed mostly against other Arabs (primarily those whose countries are aligned with the US). Non-Arabs, though held as hostages in Iraq and Kuwait, are, from available accounts, treated fairly well.

Regrettably, the media has not sufficiently highlighted Iraq's abuse of its Arab brethren, seldom reporting the horrible, daily atrocities in Kuwait and Iraq. There has, of course, been extraordinary coverage of Western hostages who have not been treated with anything remotely resembling the savagery and harshness of Iraqi treatment of Arabs. For example:

- Estimates put the murder toll of Kuwaiti civilians close to 1,000. Their bodies - not returned to their families - are reportedly buried in unmarked graves.

- Torture and physical mistreatment of Kuwaitis is reported as particularly brutal. Reported incidents include babies taken out of incubators and left to die so that the equipment can be sent to Baghdad; rape of women and men (particularly Asian workers); random and wholesale beating and degrading treatment of Kuwaiti men during interrogation.

- Widespread pillage not only of public property, but also of private Kuwaiti homes, stores, businesses, and industrial property.

- More than 1,000 Egyptians who lived in Iraq have been murdered, and the killing continues. Since Aug. 3, an average of three caskets per day reach Cairo. Baghdad's accompanying death certificates usually state the cause of death as accidental. Most bodies, however, reveal gunshots, multiple fractures, and other marks indicating physical mistreatment.

- More than 1 million Arabs and non-Arabs are estimated to have left or been forced to leave Kuwait and Iraq, their money, property, and personal possessions taken from them. …

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