In a special report from Montenegro, the BBC's Brian Barron looks at a small country which some fear could become engulfed in a new Balkans WarUN panel: 'Iraq sanctions must go'
Friday, 18 August, 2000
A United Nations human rights panel has appealed for the lifting of sanctions against Iraq and urged governments and the Baghdad authorities to help ease the suffering of the Iraqi people.
The UN Subcommission on the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, composed of experts named by their governments, issued the appeal in two resolutions adopted at its annual meeting in Geneva.
It said the sanctions, imposed 10 years ago after Iraq invaded Kuwait, had "condemned an innocent people to hunger, disease, ignorance and even death".
A report to the panel by a Belgian law professor, Marc Bossuyt, said the sanctions were "unequivocally illegal". He said they had caused a humanitarian disaster "comparable to the worst catastrophes of the past decades".
The report was attacked by the United States as "incorrect, biased and inflammatory".
The US says Iraqi President Saddam Hussein is to blame for the suffering of ordinary Iraqis.
The sanctions are being kept in place until UN inspectors certify that Iraq is free of weapons of mass destruction.
Earlier this week, the head of the United Nations oil-for-food programme in Iraq urged a fresh approach and more flexibility.
Benon Sevan said there was room for improvement by all parties in the humanitarian programme, under which Iraq is allowed to sell limited quantities of oil to buy food, medicines and other essential goods.
Baghdad has often complained of delays in the arrival of supplies which have to be vetted by the UN sanctions committee. It also accuses the United States and Britain of blocking contracts with foreign suppliers.
The UN human rights body said statistics showed the oil-for-food programme was meeting "only part of the vital needs of the population".
It said the standard of living, nutrition and health of the population were continuing to deteriorate and that all economic activities were seriously affected, particularly in the areas of drinking water supply, electricity and agriculture.
The Iraq resolution cited the 1949 Geneva Conventions, which it said "prohibit the starving of civilian populations and the destruction of what is indispensable to their survival".
In the second resolution, the subcommission urged states to reconsider their support for sanctions "even when legitimate goals pursued have not yet been achieved, if, after a reasonable period, the measures have not brought about the desired changes in policy".