Commission on Human Rights
Fifty-second session
Agenda item 9

Violence Against Women and Displaced Persons

Skip to Comfort Women - Japan \ Iraq sanctions.
International Educational Development welcomes the report (E/CN.4/1996/53/Add.1) of the Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women regarding Japan's war rape victims. As you know, our organization submitted a similar report in 1993 and an article by this speaker in 1994 on the same topic. We are pleased that the Special Rapporteur agrees with our analysis and recommendations, especially the recommendation that the government of Japan pay individual compensation to each war-rape victim. We are appalled that the government of Japan has yet to pay compensation to these victims.

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
by Israel.


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 urgently needed.

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?