We are aware of current plans to provide individual compensation
through a government-initiated private fund and that the
government has announced an intention to distribute not less than
2,000,000 yen per victim through that mechanism beginning as
early as next month. Our organization has consistently urged
direct compensation through a government-established compensation
tribunal as the best way to meet Japan's international
responsibility to compensate its victims. We are not convinced
that the proposed fund mechanism fully meets that obligation.
However, if the funds for this fund are provided by the Japanese
government itself, this distribution could be viewed as a means
of partially fulfilling Japan's obligation if other elements of
full compensation, including a compensation tribunal, are carried
out. We note for comparative purposes that the government of
Germany established a wide range of compensation programmes,
including direct payments and pensions, contributions to private
foundations and contributions to funds established
THE IRAQ SANCTIONS
BY MARGARITA PAPANDREOU, GLOBAL COORDINATOR, WOMEN FOR MUTUAL SECURITY
I would like to present a situation not yet addressed by
Rapporteur Commaraswamy but which our organizations think is of
paramount importance -- the effect of severe economic sanctions
on the condition of women.
I am an eye-witness to the effects of the sanctions on the people of Iraq. I have made several trips back to Baghdad after the war, and one fairly recently. I walked the streets, travelled to villages, and went to homes. Here are some of the statements of women I talked to: "Every night we sleep hungry." "How long will the sanctions continue?" "All my life I was never sick. Now I am always sick." "We feel weak." "The war is over, but the worries and uncertainties remain..." "So many of my friends have lost children to disease. We are desperate to get medications." "I just want God to save those who remain."
I, and the women's organization I represent, Women for Mutual Security, have a long time history with the Iraqi people, and particularly with the Iraqi women, and by extension, their children. In the 1970's we and the Iraqi Federation of Women collaborated on a number of initiatives having to do with equality and peace. Our visits there gave us a picture of a buoyant and optimistic society, working on an agenda of progressive goals for women. I mention this because I find it especially sad that a society which had put emphasis on the education of women, which is a "must" for the development of a
more humane and just society, is now reduced to functioning like
a Third World country. Women's political contribution - where
social change takes place - to the Iraqi community and to the
world community is nil.
The war with Iran cut our contacts until late in the 1980's. The
next visit was connected with an international peace initiative.
At that time, despite the fear of a new war in the Persian Gulf,
the Iraqi community was again a vibrant one, the market was
stocked full of goods, the children were happily going to school,
the city buzzed with traffic for commercial enterprise, theaters,
art, and music were a part of the average citizen's life.
Then economic sanctions were placed on Iraq by the United
Nations. They have created a weak economy, a physically
debilitated people and three societal problems practically
unheard of in pre-war Iraq: crime, unemployment, and
prostitution. Women and children are bearing the brunt of these
sanctions. Women whose partners were lost were thrown into the
job market to feed their children. Divorce rates are up in two-
parent families because of the stress and strain. Girls are
dropping out of school to help at home. Today the Iraqi people
are consuming less than half the food and only one-eighth the
medicine they did before the war. The acute shortage of basic
foods and medicines as well as their soaring prices have
triggered a nearly 550% increase since 1990 in the mortality rate
of children under five. And women are withdrawing from political
activity, unable to handle the added responsibilities.
In a war, international humanitarian law prohibits bombing the
civilian population: the civilian population may not be the
direct target of a military operation. Now, as a vestige of the
Iraqi War, a clear attack on the civilian population through a
type of terror bombing is occurring - comprehensive
economic sanctions. These sanctions sacrifice the health and
prosperity of a whole people. They are a form of collective
punishment for the sake of some external political purpose -
in this case to overthrow the regime of the country, which international law prohibits.
Article 41 of the United Nations Charter which provides for "the
complete interruption of economic relations" must not be used to
reinforce old international law motivated by the principles of
power and national interest. The current doctrine of
international law presupposes that Human Rights form
the foundation of validity both a state's internal legal system
and that of the international system. The present sanctions on
Iraq are fully in line with tradition of military medieval
sieges, that is, the starvation of the people of the country in
the interest of a respective power.
Isn't it ironic, and abominable that from the same body, the
United Nations, come blueprints setting standards of universal
human rights and on the other hand resolutions containing the
recipe, that is, economic sanctions, for atrocities gratuitously
inflicted upon others? Isn't it shameful that the international
community approaches the 21st century with so much capacity to
save and enrich people's lives, but fails to take the necessary
action to secure these rights in practice?
We would like to ask the United Nations Rapporteur on Violence
Against Women, Ms. Radhika Coomaraswamy to evaluate, within the
terms of her mandate, the impact of the economic sanctions on the
situation of women in Iraq -- not only to substantiate what I
know to be true but also in light of observations made in much
more detail by United Nations Specialized Agencies such as the
FAO, UNICEF and WHO. We also urge Mr. Francis Deng to investigate
the large-scale displacements of the population in Iraq, also as
a direct and indirect of the war and the sanctions. In view of
the fact that this January more than 6,000 persons 5 years and
older died as a direct result of the sanctions, such review is
I must conclude by making a comment which comes from a shock I had when I gathered documents of the Commission on Human Rights on the situation of human rights in Iraq. They were testimonies to the human rights abuses of the government of Iraq against its people. Nowhere did I find evidence of the violations of human rights as a result of the economic sanctions on that country. Here is a people being held hostage, undergoing collective punishment by the international community - and not a word is written about this crime against humanity.
Stop focusing on Saddam Hussein! We all know what he is and how he operates. He has been in power long enough for us to understand. What about the people of Iraq? Suffering this form of violence? Particularly the poor, the women and children, the elderly - those who cling most precariously to life. What about our responsibility as members of the international community?