Commission on Human Rights

Fifty-second session
Agenda item 20


The children of Iraq are suffering unspeakable horrors as a direct result of economic sanctions against Iraq and as a result of illnesses, disabilities and deformities apparently caused by the radioactive residue from bullets and other weapons containing depleted uranium (DU) used by the United States during military operations against Iraq.

In our statement under item 9, Margarita Papandreou of Women for Mutual Security presented some aspects of the effects of sanctions on Iraqi children. She is an eyewitness to the overwhelming tragedy of these children, and like any who sees it who has any sense of humanity, is compelled to work day and night to bring instant aid. We also presented Dr. Horst Gunther, whose work proves beyond doubt the use of bullets containing depleted uranium by US forces in Iraq.

We are pleased that the Sub-Commission, in its decision 1995/107, also expressed its concern regarding the need of the Iraqi children, women and disabled persons for urgent humanitarian relief, and that the WHO, UNICEF, FAO and UNHCR have reported on the catastrophic consequences of the sanctions.

At this session, International Educational Development/Humanitarian Law Project joins with World Muslim Congress, Women's International Christian Federation, American Association of Jurists, General Arab Women Federation, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, International League for the Rights and Liberation of Peoples, International Movement for Fraternal Union Among Racism and Peoples, Disabled Peoples' International, Movement Against Racism and for Friendship Among Peoples, World Movement of Mothers, North-South XXI, Pax Christi International, Union of Arab Jurists, World Peace Council and Centre-Europe-Tiers Monde in a written statement submitted under item 10 to condemn the sanctions against Iraq because of the extreme suffering of the Iraqi children. We note data from the FAO showing that more than 560,000 children have already died since the war ended and that the current monthly figure of deaths of small children surpasses 5,000 with another 5,000 for persons over the age of 14.

Women for Mutual Security, Canadian Women for Peace, International Action Center, International Commission of Inquiry on Economic Sanctions, the Japanese/Arab Cultural Association, Friendship Society Between Japanese Children and Arab Children, World Development Movement (UK), Yellow Cross International (Germany) and more than twenty other groups also join in the call for immediate medical and humanitarian aid for Iraqi civilians and full disclosure and compensation for victims of weapons or waste containing depleted uranium.

The Iraqi children have an absolute right to relief from the hardship of war and to life-sustaining food and medical relief. Sanctions cannot be used to deprive children from these rights even if the intended purpose of sanctions seeks to address other issues. The International Court of Justice, in its decision of 27 June 1986 (Nicaragua v. US), ruled that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions of 1949 provides a minimum standard for all countries and in all armed conflict situations. The sanctions are a part of the war against Iraq, and therefore fall under review of this binding legal principle. In addition to the International Court of Justice ruling, we remind the Commission that basic principles of humanitarian law are jus cogens and may not be abrogated in any way. This principle is also part of the UN Charter, which in its Article 1, sec. 3, mandates international action for pressing humanitarian concerns.

Madame Papandreou joins us in welcoming the work of another former first lady, Madame Graca Machel, and her important work on the impact of war on children. We ask Madame Machel to carry out an investigation of the tragic situation of the Iraqi children and incorporate it into her report to the General Assembly this year. We urge careful review of the medical effects of the use of depleted uranium and the continued presence in Iraq of tons of bullets containing depleted uranium left by the US forces. That review should also investigate that many American children born after the war also have disabilities and deformities linked to the exposure of their fathers or mothers to depleted uranium during their military duty. In investigating the use of depleted uranium, Madame Machel could carry out a joint mission with the Commission's rapporteur on toxics Madame Fatma Ksentini. We will submit a complete dossier to Madame Ksentini and ask her to report on this to the 53 session of the Commission.
We attach to this statement a report by Dr. Beatrice Boctor for the International Commission of Inquiry on Economic Sanctions which provides a summary of the findings of the WHO and documents other violations of the rights of children.