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Homepage arrow Accountability and Justice for Iraq - March 2013


March 2013 marks a decade since the US invasion and occupation of Iraq in 2003, yet justice for those affected by war and occupation remains an unlikely prospect. It is well past time for the United Nations and the concerned international agencies to confront the apparent impunity granted to those who have committed the supreme international crime of aggression against a sovereign, founding UN Member-State which resulted in the systematic and ongoing violation of all human rights of all Iraqi people.

Accountability and Justice for
Iraq

Accountability and the urgent restoration of justice for Iraq should be the paramount and immediate task of the UN community and all those individuals and states who believe in peace and the rule of law.

Geneva International Centre for Justice considers that the catastrophic Human Rights situation in Iraq must be addressed by all relevant UN agencies and mechanisms as well as by civil society organisations working in the field, as a matter of priority.

Background

The ten-year period leading up to March 2013 was marked by many, deliberate, unnecessary and extreme forms of damage and destruction that have permanently devastated the nation and its people.

The US invasion and occupation of Iraq has produced a vast number of consequences, many of which have and will continue to directly and indirectly affect the most vulnerable of the population: innocent civilians, women and children.

Moreover, it has resulted in numerous far-reaching consequences world-wide. As Desmond Tutu said, the immorality of the United States and Great Britain`s decision to invade Iraq in 2003, premised on the lie that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, has destabilized and polarized the world to a greater extent than any other conflict in history.All necessary means to sustain modern life were largely destroyed, looted, or burned down in defiance of the Geneva Conventions.

The hallmarks of Iraq`s society that have been destroyed is not limited to the advanced medical and educational facilities but also museums, public libraries, social and recreational facilities, power and water plants, factories, roads, bridges, radio and television stations and irrigation systems.

This was a US-engineered rampage, and an invasion that the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan denounced as an “illegal act” from which “painful lessons” must be learned.The Invasion has resulted in atrocities and systematic war crimes, contributing to more than one million estimated deaths. Even that could be an under-estimate.

The American stance as articulated by Brigadier General Mark Kimmitt was that it was: “not productive” to count Iraq’s enormous death toll. This to be added the million and a half Iraqis who are believed to have been perished as a result of the draconian embargo 1990-2003.These violations including for example, the horrors of Abu Ghraib and other detention centers have barely been addressed with perpetrators near exempt from justice.

How long will the “International Community” continue to ignore the plight of Iraq and its people?

In addition to the destruction and the human death toll, there are now approximately four million Iraqi children who are orphans, three million widows, two million internally displaced persons and three million refugees.Notwithstanding, the regular forces of the occupying power, have been withdrawn from Iraq without giving any form of apology to the people of Iraq for the severe violations of International Humanitarian Law committed during their occupation and control of the country.

The Iraqi people now live in the direst of conditions. In one of the world’s potentially wealthiest countries, Iraqis living atop of the second largest oil reserves on earth, now reside in a near failed State, under an arguably US-imposed system, rife with corruption and brutality.Arguably, illegal measures were taken by the occupying authorities in order to gain immunity from prosecution for their troops. Mercenaries and private military companies were also exempted from prosecution.

These exemptions all constitute grave breaches of International, Human Rights and Humanitarian Law. Further, International Law stipulates that the United States and its allies must bear legal responsibility for wrong doings, crimes and violations.

One must ask who is benefitting from the continued silence. Who are the war criminals that are responsible at all levels?

While it emphasized the demand of the people of the world that no perpetrator is left without punishment no matter who he is, the conference was a unique occasion to re-affirm, at the UN, the fundamental position that the initiation of a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime.


The 10th commemoration of the invasion and occupation of Iraq

United Nations - Geneva
14 & 15 March 2013

At the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the US-invasion in Iraq in 2003 the Geneva International Center for Justice (GICJ) together with over 300 NGOs held a 6-session conference under the title “Accountability and Justice for Iraq”. The conference was held from, 14th to 15th of March 2013 at the United Nations/ Geneva.  The well attended conference was opened by the Mayor of Geneva and included high-level speakers from all around the world, addressing the deteriorating situation in Iraq under sanctions, war and occupation.

Its aim was to bring together civil society organizations, human right defenders and with academic institutions in order to highlight the numerous human rights violations committed during and since the beginning of the conflict, which led to a tremendous suffering of the civil population and a constantly deteriorating human rights situation in Iraq. The participants explored means and actions for achieving accountability and restore justice for the Iraqi people.

Since many years NGOs have kept insisting that the topic of Iraq needs to be addressed, given that the HR-situation in Iraq is one of the worst in the world and is the result of foreign intervention. Despite UNAMI reports and the pressure from NGOs, until now not one single report by the OHCHR has been issued concerning the situation in Iraq. The attendees and organizers thus agreed on a declaration stressing the need and urgency to address the consequences of the invasion and occupation in order to archive justice for the Iraqi people.

The conference was sub-divided into 6 key topics:

1. Accountability, 2. Collapse of institutions, 3. Institutional corruption, 4. Social breakdown, 5. Systematic destruction, 6. Restoring Justice

Thursday 14th of March 2013

Opening Ceremony

Mr Remy Pagani, Mayor of the City of Geneva

During the Opening Ceremony, the Mayor of Geneva, Mr. Rémi Pagani, underlined the importance of the conference. After welcoming the participants he emphasized that defending human rights has and always will be a priority to the City of Geneva. He therefore affirmed Geneva’s full and unconditional support for all actions and movements of civil initiatives, who stand up for the universal application of international human rights. “The strength of law has to prevail”, Pagani stated, “and not the right of the strongest.” He then stretched that the City of Geneva had from the outset on been opposed to the invasion of Iraq, an invasion conducted without UN-mandate and had resulted in a huge number of civil victims and a humanitarian disaster Pagani further expressed his wish that Iraq will get back its deserving place in the international community as soon as possible and emphasized that the organizers of the “Accountability and Justice for Iraq”conference could always count on Geneva to continue supporting their struggle for defending human rights.

Read more (French)

Session 1 – Accountability

The first session was held under the motto “Accountability”. The purpose of this session was to expose the grave human rights violations from the beginning of the sanctions through war and occupation and to address the question how accountability can be achieved. The meeting moderated by the International Human Rights Lawyer Dr. Curtis Doebbler included as a main speaker the former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN coordinator for Iraq, Dr. Hans C. Graf von Sponeck. He is author of several publications on Iraq and received numerous public awards. Another speaker was the chair of the Swedish Network Against War 2002-2003 and Secretary General of ISMUN, Mr. Jan Lönn. 

Dr. Hans Christoph Graf von Sponeck

“How much can a people take?” With this introductory question Dr. Hans von Sponeck began his presentation about his experience as former UN Assistant Secretary General and UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq. Even after so many years in the field, he said, it is impossible to fully comprehend the suffering inflicted on the Iraqi people. Germany had seen five years of war, and the impact was already disastrous. However the Iraqi suffering has lasted over decades, beginning from the sanctions in 1990, he held. Many factors have contributed to the Iraqi suffering, von Sponeck then explained, still he wanted to focus on the role of the United Nations, an organization he so deeply had believed in. He then addressed the extent of the UN sanctions imposed on Iraq. Even if at the outset they had been legal, these sanctions have been the most comprehensive all ever and quickly turned into something illegal, when the impact on the local population was not taken into account, von Sponeck described. The political goal behind the sanctions, he held, was not the proclaimed disarmament but a political one: “Baghdad could have cooperated as much as it wanted, the international pressure would never have ceased as long as Saddam Hussein was in power.” Such a policy was profoundly inhuman, von Sponeck insisted, since in 1995 Iraq was quality disarmed but the pressure continued, despite all cooperation of Baghdad and the quickly deteriorating situation. The suffering of the people was thus regarded as a “regrettable collateral damage”. Voices like von Sponeck’s were stifled and instead misinformation based on political interests the common practice, as reflected in the alleged existence of weapons of mass destruction. Little efforts were made to ease the suffering, but these measures were insufficient and unprofessional, since the UN had never been prepared to such a situation, von Sponeck said. The Oil for Food program was never meant to work, and more driven by economic interests than humanitarian concerns. “But what was humanitarian, when the entire program was funded by Iraqi money?”, von Sponeck asked before explaining that only a small part of the means had really been invested on the ground. The entire capital per day that came into Iraq was thus about 51 cents, but 60 - 70 % of the Iraqi people were dependant on it. The rest of the funds were deposited in Geneva. The disastrous impact of a policy that puts politics first and people second finally drove von Sponeck to lay down his office in February 2000. After his resignation he sought funds for anti-sanctions work and tried to inform the public about the precarious Human rights situation in Iraq. He is author of several publications on Iraq and received numerous public awards.

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Mr Jan Lönn

In his presentation Mr Jan Lönn explained the efforts of the demonstrations in the forefield of the war on Iraq and how NGOs had warned to desist from such an intervention. He described how mass protests against an imminent war on Iraq mobilized millions of people throughout the world. The demonstrations began in 2002 and the biggest was held on only few days before the beginning of the invasion, on 15 Februrary 2003, Jan Lönn said, when more than seven million people, in more than 300 cities and 60 countries throughout the world took to the streets, which were by far the largest peace protests since the Vietnam War. These demonstrations were carefully planned by an international network of national social movement organisations and preceded by multiple and elaborate inter- and transnational contacts, Lönn thus underlined. After these demonstrations a New York writer wrote that there were obviously two superpowers on this planet, the US and the worldwide public opinion. Unfortunately, despite all efforts, the governments did not listen to the voice of the people and the international community failed to assume its responsibility. In the US these voices were called a "vocal minority". The disastrous consequences of this intervention can be witnessed today, and the US needs to be held accountable, Lönn concluded.

Session 2 – collapse of institutions

The second session addressed the collapse of institutions in Iraq following the US-invasion and the years under occupation. The purpose of this session was to highlight the current issues of political scale and how, although the US has withdrawn its regular army by the end of 2011, Iraq is still controlled by the US Administration and ruled by a sectarian government, which carries out a virulent policy of division that constitutes a daily threat for the population. The meeting moderated by the International Human Rights Lawyer Dr. Curtis Doebbler included as speakers Mr. Dirk Adriansens, who as a member of the executive committee of the Brussels Tribunal led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of UN imposed sanction, and the President of the Arab Lawyers Association, Mr Sabah Al-Mukhtar, who addressed the dismantle of the judiciary system in Iraq by the occupation authorities.

Mr Dirk Adriaensens

Dirk Adriaensens spoke about the patterned process of degradation and dismantling of Iraq’s education system that once vaunted as the most advantaged in the region. He explained how due to sanctions, war and occupations some 84% of Iraq’s institutions of higher education most of the Iraqi schools and universities were bombed and destroyed or looted and Iraq’s intellectual and technical class has been subject to a systematic and on-going campaign of intimidation, abduction, extortion, random killings and targeted assassinations. The situation led to a dramatically increasing illiteracy level over the past years and Iraq is thus unlikely to achieve the education-for-all Millennium Development Goals by 2015, Adriaensens explained. The general insecurity has driven thousands of students away and the scale of attacks on academic staff, the appointment of ignorant people and the total chaos created by the occupation authorities, the inhuman debaathification policy, together with the magnitude of the destruction of academic infrastructure—crimes that have occurred under the watchful eye of the US led Multi-National Forces—has no precedent in recent history and raises serious questions about the real intentions of the US occupiers, who should be held accountable for the total collapse of the Iraqi education sector, Adriaensens continued before pointing out that any efforts to rebuild Iraq’s infrastructure, including schools and higher education institutions, have been plagued by shoddy construction and corruption. Contrary to its assertions the American policy has thus proven to be disastrous and the international community cannot remain silent, Dirk Adriaensens concluded, because “silence is complicity and silence kills”.

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Mr Sabah Al Mukhtar

The President of the Arab Lawyers Association-UK Mr Sabah Al-Mukhtar addressed the dismantled judiciary system in Iraq. He spoke about the Legitimacy of the war, the imposed Legislation, how the judiciary structure was run, the newly appointed Judges before finally addressing the Police and the law enforcement agencies. He started his presentation by underlining the illegality and groundlessness of the war and how the breakup of institutions had been a prearranged matter by the US long before 2003.

He then described how after the US-invasion appointed Bremer to impose a foreign legal system on the Iraqi people that consisted in a fundamental change of all laws. The new constitution was drafted by Noah Feldman, who was professor of Islamic law at Yale University, but such a strategy in occupied territories is illegal under international law, Al Mukhtar notified. He then explained how the radical turnover consisted in the demission of fifty percent of all judges. New courts, like the Baghdad Central Court were created, despite the fact that Baghdad already had two criminal courts. But the new one could be filled with judges of Bremer’s own choice and inclination. This policy was completely unadjusted to the situation and discriminated half of the population, Al-Mukhtar clarified, since the selection and dismissal of personnel was in first place based on the question if yes or no the persons had been opposed to Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party, regardless of their qualification.

Regardless of what anybody might think about the Baathists, Al- Mukhtar said, they were not a racist political movement, they are a pan-Arab movement, even if – as any large movement – maybe they had had bad members, but most of all they were Iraqis. Such a system of discrimination (the De-Ba'athification) penalizes people for their political views, Al-Mukhtar continued, since a million Baathists were banned from doing their work, which thus disenfranchised almost 4 million Iraqis.

Concerning the police and law enforcement agencies any member of the previous law enforcement agencies was equally dismissed. Already before Bremer the police service in Baghdad had been reorganized through people without any knowledge of the local mentality and language, Al Mukhtar held. On top of this, many of the newly appointed were prisoners that had been released for security reasons in the forefield of the war and who “suddenly” became anti-Baathists. By this way the Americans created a system of criminals, who had no national allegiance, but rather an allegiance either to a tribe or a sect.

The result of such a policy is a sectarian government, based on torture, enforced disappearances, abuse, rapes, unfair trials and abductions, Al-Mukhtar explained, pointing out “So this is how you dismantle a state”.

Everything the US has done contravenes international law, Al-Mukhtar finally stated, and every single measure taken under sanctions, war or occupation was directed against the Iraqi people.

Such a policy must be labeled genocide. If the US will ever be brought to justice, is questionable, Al-Mukhtar concluded, but the least the US should do is apologize.

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Session 3 – Institutional Corruption

The last session of the first day dealt with the issue of institutional corruption that emerged during and following the US-invasion. The meeting moderated by Mrs. K. Ahoojapatel included as speakers the Iraqi economy expert Dr. Aziz Al-Kazaz and the French writer and the French journalist Mr. Gilles Munier.

Dr Aziz Al-Kazaz

The Iraqi economy expert, Dr. Aziz Al-Kazaz addressed the full downturn of Iraq`s Economy in view of the numerous war crimes and human rights violations under the occupation. He started by describing the destruction of nearly all the state and civil institutions, which basically meant a loss of all things necessary for the efficient performance of the government. He then numerated the US Violations of Occupation Law, consisting in failure to allow self-determination and to provide public order and safety, unlawful attacks, detention and torture, collective punishment, failure to ensure vital services, the rights to health and life, food and education, work and fundamental changes to the economy. The USA is not above the law, but rather should be bound and limited by law. Yet the entire thrust of US policy in Iraq stands in contradiction to the post-World War II legal order and particularly the legal framework governing occupation, Dr. Aziz Al-Kazaz concluded, and demanded to stop the violations, end the occupation, establish accountability and pay reparations. He then turned to the waste and stealing of Iraqi funds and oil revenues by the occupation authorities and co-workers at the example of the Decision of the US administration to get hold of all Iraqi assets and funds all over the world and the confiscation of Iraqi funds in the USA as well as the Enforced transfer of funds from Iraqi UBS account to the Americans. The misuse of oil revenues together with a faulty economic policy fuel national uprising.

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Mr Gilles Munier

The French writer and journalist Gilles Munier addressed the scandal that emerged in 2004 when a daily newspaper in Iraq published a list of individuals and organizations for allegedly having received oil sales contracts via the UN's Oil-for-Food Program. Along with other French citizens he was publicly charged for violating an UN-resolution, which resulted in his house being searched, long hours of interrogation, retrieved passports and bailments. Even if he was finally cleared of all charges on 21 January 2005, the accusations didn’t come as a surprise, Munier said, since the reason behind the accusation was a political one, targeting organizations that were openly opposed the UN-embargo on Iraq.  Disappointing, however, was that although the trial had been declared an affair of state, it only received little public attention and never addressed the issue of the embargo itself. The main scandal, Munier therefore concluded, was (and still is) not the American imperialism, but the public’s ignorance of the suffering of the Iraqi people.

Read more (French)

Friday 15th of March 2013

Session 4 – Social breakdown

After discussing the political background of the US invasion and occupation, the second day started with addressing the humanitarian impact of sanctions, war and occupation – a topic widely ignored by the Western media. The meeting was moderated by Ms Daniela Dönges, from GICJ and included as speakers the Specialist on the situation of children in Iraq, Bie Kentane, the Social researcher in Woman and Development of the University of Durham, UK, Dr. Yasmin Jawad, and the Professor of Social Science, Dr. Abdulsalam Al-Taii.

Bie Kentane

As somebody who has been reporting on the situation of Iraqi children under the occupation, Bie Kentane, started her presentation by explaining how the education system in Iraq had been one of the most advanced in the region before 1990 but to what extent the education system has been dismantled due to war and occupation, when schools were destroyed, and academic staff killed or displaced, This is all the more problematic in view of the fact that Iraq is the second youngest country in Middle East, Kentane explained. Until today educational facilities are in poor conditions, many schools have no electricity, no drinking water and no proper sanitary facilities. The dismantled education system as well as the lack of security has affected the early childhood development and led to significantly decreased school enrolment rates, especially among girls, Kentane pointed out. Only about half of the children of secondary school age are attending secondary school. Learning disabilities and mental illness have equally increased following the war. Children have witnessed a lot of violence and are equally exposed to violence, Kentane further warned, but still there is no appropriate treatment, neither for the traumatized children nor for the disabled. Child labor has equally increased on a dramatic scale. By now more than one third of the children under 14 are working in order to gain their living or support their families and about 500.000 orphans live in the streets. Due to this situation children have fallen into the hands of traffickers and drug dealers and huge number of girls minor has been sold for prostitution or forced marriages all over the world. Even disabled children have not been spared from abuse, Kentane further continued to explain, but the government fails to assume its responsibility. Instead, numerous children are withering in jail under unbearable conditions. Kentane then pointed out that all of these problems were practically non-existent prior to the US-invasion.

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Dr. Yasmin Jawad

Dr. Yasmin Jawad, presented the Iraqi woman position prior and post to the occupation in 2003. Prior to sanctions, war and occupation, she explained, Iraqi women enjoyed equal rights to men in regard to education, health and employment. Education was free for all and both, men and women, were allowed to go abroad for higher studies. It had taken the women a long time to gain these rights, Dr Jawad said, since Arab’s woman social position has always been undermined by conservative mainstream attitude and Iraqi women were no exception. Despite all, during the 70s and 80, they had succeeded to undermine the mainstream and stood up for their rights and there were significant moves to improve the family law in favoring women’s right regarding divorce, marriage age, etc. The situation began to deteriorate with the beginning of the sanctions in 1990 and war and occupation did their rest to destroy the achievements in addition to problems like displacement, poverty, abuse and mistreatment by the occupation forces. Today Iraq has turned from an enlightened, progressive and rich country into a middle age Europe, Dr Jawad concluded, but Iraqi women deserve a better life and better conditions. 

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Dr. Abdulsalam Al-Taii

Dr. Abdulsalam Al-Taii addressed the demographic and geo- political changes in Iraq over the past years. In this purpose he examined the size and category of age/ sex structures, the socioeconomic texture of the population as well as the topics of fertility, mortality and migration and commented on the difference between official and real figures. He explained that demographic change is a mutation and transformation, which affects the social texture as a whole. He then proved the significant increase in child mortality over the last years and commented on the high death toll of the war, with 18% of the population (thus 6 million) killed. He then spoke about the psychological status and the war diseases and commented on the high illiteracy rates. He underlined that most changes of the social texture are a result of the US-invasion and occupation, and that especially fanaticism only emerged after the occupation. The the Iraqi society did not know the distinction between doctrines before, Al-Taii said, since there had never been any statistics on a sectarian basis before. The researcher then stretched that the concept of minority and majority is a sort of demographic fiction made up by Iran and the U.S. in an attempt to dismantle the social fabric of Iraq. He then explained that most of the parties that came into power after the occupation had grown up in neighboring countries, especially in Iran. Thus Iran has a growing influence Al-Taii warned, and the sectarian structure had been drafted according to the Iranian demographic statistics, that divided the people on the basis of religions and nationalities and not on the national affiliation. He ended his presentation with a warning of the growing influence of Iran in the region, which might affect the whole world. 

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Session 5 – Systematic destruction

The 5th session dealt with the topic of the systematic destruction in Iraq. The session moderated by the Permanent representative of movement contre le racism et pour l’amitié entre les peuples, Mr. Gianfrance Fattorini included as speakers the former chairperson of the UN Human rights Council’s working group on the use of mercenaries, Mr. Jose Del Prado and the Professor and scientific researcher from the Science College of Oran in Algeria Prof. Dr. Abdul Kadhum Al Aboudi.

Mr. Jose Del Prado

Mr Jose Del Prado, investigated the legality of the war on Iraq and the policy pursued under occupation on the basis of international law. The basic principle contained in the UN Charter is to preserve generations from the scourge of war, he said, and no country has the right to send its troops into another country without the consent of its government. The war on Iraq thus was illegal. The role of the UN would have been to assist the Iraqi people in the transition towards democracy by rebuilding a country in peace including all political and ethnic groups, but they failed. The result of the US-policy of outsourcing inherently state functions was a myriad of transnational private corporations and private military and security companies. Del Prado then explained how the use of private contractors substantially contributed to the war chaos in Iraq. The human rights violations committed by these contractors were serious and numerous, including executions, torture, arbitrary detention and trafficking, he explained. Such an intervention tends to provoke internal conflict and civil war, Del Prado warned, before concluding that the example of Iraq sadly shows how the policy of privatizing war marginalizes the United Nations, weakens democratic countries and spurs terrorism.

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Prof. Dr. Abdul Kadhum Al Aboudi

Dr. Abdul Kadhum Al Aboudi, addressed the environmental and health effects of the US-invasion and occupation of Iraq from the beginning of the sanctions in 1991, through war and occupation since 2003 until today. He began his presentation by showing how the destruction of health and environment in Iraqi has been of an unprecedented scale and can only be compared to the effects of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. Since 1991 until 2003 and beyond, Al Aboudi explained, Iraq has become an experimental field for all forms of lethal weapons, advanced nuclear warheads and phosphorous bombs. The extent of lethal destruction and its effects on environment and health goes beyond any human imagination. In addition to the overall bombing with radioactive bombs, Iraqi nuclear research centers like “Al-Tuwaitha” were not protected by the US and thus vulnerable to looting and sabotage. The amount of tones of the depleted Uranium has thus been estimated between 340 and 800 tons in 1991 and about 2200 tons in 2003, Al Aboudi explained. Deaths from cancer currently represent 6.6% of total deaths with upward tendency. The number is expected to rise up to 10% in 2030, with 25.000 cases of newly detected cancer a year. Such figures can only be compared to Hiroshima and Nagasaki and is incomparable to any other tragedy in modern history, Prof. Al Aboudi warned before asking: How long do the victims need to wait until the nuclear radiation pollution in Iraq is removed and they find a safe and healthy place to live? Only the Americans can know, was his answer, but they have never recognized the right of even one of the million victims. What thus are the legal consequences resulting from decisions that cost the life of more than 1.8 million people? All those responsible for these crimes and the tragedy of Iraqi people over the last twenty years must be brought to justice, Prof. Al Aboudi concluded, and an a legal committee established in order to compensate the people so severely affected by sanctions, war and occupation.

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Session 6 – Restoring Justice

The last session of the conference concluded the conference by addressing the future perspective on how justice can be restored. The meeting was moderated by the attorney in human rights and humanitarian law, Dr. Karen Parker and included as main speakers the United Nations Independent expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Professor Alfred de Zayas. He outlined the legal framework of restoring justice as well as the legal right of victims to rehabilitation and reparation.

Professor Alfred de Zayas

The United Nations Independent expert on the Promotion of a Democratic and Equitable International Order, Professor Alfred de Zayas addressed the important topic how accountability can be achieved and justice restored based on international law.

He started his presentation by proving how the intervention of Iraq had violated international law and that the US bear the primary responsibility for the humanitarian catastrophe that followed the breach of peace committed by the coalition of the willing. He then outlined the legal right of victims to rehabilitation, reparation and restitution. However, the norms of international law are not self-executing and may require legislative action in order to identify the special legal basis, he warned. What is therefore most needed, De Zayas said, is the political will of governments throughout the world to ensure that the norms of international law are implemented.

It is necessary to mobilize civil society in all countries. Ignoring these grave violations would be inacceptable. The obligation to make violations of international law is a general principle, as referred to in the Statute of the International Court of Justice (ICJ), he stressed. But laws need to be enforced. Among the measures required for Iraq is adequate reparation a clean-up of the environment, the rebuilding of historical buildings and concerted efforts to recover the objects stolen from the Baghdad archaeological museum. Insofar as obligations cannot be made good by restitution or compensation, De Zayas explained, the State responsible for an international wrongful act is at least under an obligation to give satisfaction for the injury, which may consist in an acknowledgement of the breach, an expression of regret or a formal apology.

Concerning reparation the Iraqis should appeal to international solidarity not to recognize the effects of war crimes and crimes against humanity, De Zayas clarified, since the very right to reparation and rehabilitation is not only grounded in the Statue of the ICJ, it is also reflected in a series of UN resolutions like the General Assembly’s resolution 60/147 from 16 December 2005. The international law therefore is on the side of the Iraqi people, De Zayas underlined. The implementation, nevertheless, requires the political will of the governments and the access of the victims to reliable information, in particular the right for truth, he continued. “Until now the US and the other countries concerned have refused to compensate the victims and the responsible have not been held accountable. UN bodies like the Human rights Committee and the Committee against torture might be an opportunity for the Iraqi people to make their voices heard.”

De Zayas finally recommended that: the UN should consider the appointment of a Special Rapporteur on Iraq, the UN Special Procedures be engaged, countries like the US and the UK ratify the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. All countries should ratify the Statute of the International Criminal Court and the principle of universal jurisdiction be applied in prosecuting persons suspected of having committed grave human rights violations. An environmental clean-up must be undertaken and financed by the coalition of the willing and a Human Rights Chamber for Iraq is established in order to facilitate the investigation of cases and adequate reparation, compensation and rehabilitation. A United Nations Compensation Commission for Iraqi victims should be established or at least a special fund that could be administered by the OHCHR.

Read more (English)

A selection of pictures from the conference sessions

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Oral statements delivered during the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the Human Rights situation in Iraq

(25 February-22 March 2013)

GICJ co-sponsored oral statements delivered during the 22nd Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council, held in Geneva from 25 February to 22 March 2013.

Oral statement delivered under agenda Item 2: Annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and reports of the Office of the High Commissioner and the Secretary General.

Ms Giorgina Piperone, intern at Geneva International Centre for Justice, delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda Item 2, during the General Discussion on the Thematic Reports of the Secretary-General, Mr Ban Ki-moon, and the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navanethem Pillay, held on 4 March 2013, in which she underlined the continuing violation of all basic human rights in Iraq.

Full text of the statement:

Considering that Iraq has been struggling with the impact of war and occupation since the US-led invasion in 2003, we hoped that the High Commissioner would have further focused on the Human Rights violations in Iraq. The ten years of occupation has caused immense destruction in Iraq, the US occupation has led to the collapse of public services, violations of human rights and destroyed heritage. Coalition of Military Operations including massive attacks on cities like Fallujah and the counter-insurgent policy led to a substantially increased mortality and massive displacement.  These attacks have led to high mortality rate, displacement of people, unemployment, a weakened education system and poverty. Although it is in the mandate of the UN, it must be noted that as of yet, official bodies have failed to investigate grave human rights violations following the invasion of 2003. The NGOs signatories to this statement request the High Commissioner to focus on the situation in Iraq in her coming reports.

We have a duty to put an end to all remaining aspects of the occupation in Iraq, we have a duty to protect internally and externally displaced persons, we have a duty to restore the health status in Iraq and to restore human rights in Iraq.

We have a duty to locate the one million people who have been declared missing, we must provide the people of Iraq with compensation to rebuild their infrastructures, schools, institutions and private property, as any country associated with war and occupation is eligible for. We must protect Iraqi professionals, teacher and jurists.

Oral statements delivered under agenda Item 3: Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.

Ms Daniela Dönges, intern at Geneva International Centre for Justice, delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda item 3, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on torture, Mr. Juan Mendez, held on 5 March 2013, in which she underlined the deterioration of the situation of human rights in Iraq following the US-led invasion of 2003 and the necessity for the special Rapporteur on torture to visit the country and report on the situation.

Full text of the statement:

Mr Special Rapporteur, in your recent report you noted an outstanding invitation to visit Iraq and we would like to underline the urgency of this visit. Since the US invasion 2003 the human rights situation of Iraq has deteriorated, particularly concerning the situation of detainees.

The prison conditions in Iraq are one of the worst in the world. Denial of health care and overcrowding contribute to an environment where drug and physical abuse as well as infectious diseases are widespread among the prisoners. The Iraqi penal system is also one of the most arbitrary. Detainees are held in prison for years without even knowing the charges held against them and with no access to family members and lawyers. Death sentences based one forced confessions are common practise and torture of persons in detention is widespread, particularly during interrogation. Common techniques include beating and death-threat, handcuffing to or suspension from cell bars; electric shocks; cigarette burns; denial of food, water or sleep; plastic bags placed over the head; threats against family members. Proofs exist that detainees were removed from cells prior to audits undertaken by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq UNAMI in order to hide the evidences.

Mr Special Rapporteur, in your report you underline under item 24 that the prohibition of torture must be enforced in all types of institutions, however the situation in Iraq is more complex. Iraqi institutions have been established under the control of the US-forces and are therefore the result of foreign intervention. UNAMI reports prove, that detentions, torture and extra-judicial executions go back to methods used by the US-led Multi-National Forces’, who established the Special Police Commandos and reorganised the Ministry of Interior. The intertwining relations between local and foreign institutions make an international independent investigation unavoidable if the problem of torture in Iraq shall be resolved.

Mr Special Rapporteur, country visits are an integral part of your mandate. We call you to urge the Iraq authorities to make every effort to schedule this visit promptly and focus on the violations of human rights and torture in Iraq in your future reports. We also call on the United Nations to investigate the human rights violations since 2003 through an UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in Iraq.

Ms Daniela Dönges, intern at Geneva International Centre for Justice, delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda item 3, during the Interactive Dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, Ms. Najat Maalla M’jid, and the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, held on 7 March 2013, on the sale of children and child prostitution in Iraq.

Full text of the statement:

Madam Special Representative, under item 10 you underline that the protection of children from violence is a fundamental human right. This especially concerns the children of Iraq, where due to war and occupation around 3.5 million children are living in poverty, 500.000 orphans live in the streets and school dropout rates have dramatically increased, which makes children extremely vulnerable to violence. Around 11 percent of Iraqi children under 14 have to work in order to support their families and many of these children have fallen into the hands of traffickers and drug dealers. UNICEF reports prove the dramatical increase of drug abuse, which was practically non-existent prior to the US invasion.

Madam Special Representative, Madam Special Rapporteur both reports rightly show that the rights to be free from violence and sexual exploitation are indivisibly interlinked and that a strong national normative framework is vital to respond to violence and protect children. Over the past ten years tens of thousands of girls in Iraq have been trafficked and statistics show that 65 % among prostituted females are minor girls, a problem which did not exist prior to 2003. Still until today there is no prosecution of criminals engaged in human trafficking and negligible support for the victims. The current situation in Iraq is the result of foreign intervention and the international community must assume its responsibility.

Madam Special Rapporteur, in your report you have mentioned a number of country visits, as well as outstanding requests to other countries. The situation in Iraq has been deteriorating for more than ten years now and will further deteriorate if the international Community does not react. We therefore call on you to urgently request a visit to Iraq.

Madam Special Representative, your report underlines that harmful practices compromise the development and education of children, have serious and long-lasting consequences. This has proven to be bitter reality in Iraq. We therefore urge you to take the situation of Iraq into account in your future reports. We also call on the United Nations to investigate the human rights violations since 2003 through an UN Special Rapporteur for the human rights situation in Iraq.

Ms Giorgina Piperone, intern at Geneva International Centre for Justice, delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda Item 3, during the General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, including the Right to Development, held on 11 March 2013, in which she drew particular attention to the deteriorating education system and to the plight of Iraqi women.

Full text of the statement:

We would like to draw the attention of the Human Rights Council to our grave and growing concern regarding the economic, political and social human rights violation in Iraq.

In particular we alert you to the deteriorating education system, the mistreatment of women, and the poor standards of health in Iraq since the 2003 US-led invasion. UNESCO reported that Iraq once had one of the leading education systems in the world. Since 2003 the education system is such that 5 million Iraqis are illiterate and 50% of students have dropped out of school. Most of Iraq's schools have been bombed, looted, burnt or been used as military bases by both the US and Iraqi armies.   

Education is the answer to end the cycle of poverty and to give the next generation the best possible chance of recovering from this war.

Mr President, having just celebrated the international day for women, we urge the council to remember the plight of Iraqi women. As many female professionals have stopped working fearing reprisals, the International Red Cross estimates that over 3.5 million Iraqi women are living below the poverty line. These women, many of whom are now widows, are struggling to support their families. UNAMI reports that women in detention are being sexually abused in front of male prisoners. Pregnant women in detention have been malnourished and given poor ante and post natal care.

Mr President, since the US occupation there have been adverse health trends in both the people and the health system of Iraq. As 7 million people are now living in poverty, a significant number of Iraqis do not have access to medical care, clean water and food.

Contamination from Depleted Uranium and other military related pollution is strongly suspected of causing a sharp rise in congenital birth defects, miscarriages and cancer cases.

Finally we ask the Human Rights Council to respond to the cries of Iraqi people. We urge the council to appoint a Special Rapporteur on the Human Rights situation in Iraq. We also ask that all Special Rapporteurs focus on Iraq in their coming reports.

Ms Gala Maric delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda Item 3, during the General Debate on the Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, including the Right to Development, held on 11 March 2013.

Full text of the statement:

We draw attention to the serious harm to human rights caused by the scourge of war, the threat of war, and unlawful sanctions.

These acts of violence have killed more than 3 million people in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya alone.

This year we commemorate the 10th anniversary of the unlawful aggression against the people of Iraq, with a series of side events on the 14 and 15 of March.

To date the Council has failed to address such unlawful violence allowing impunity of some of the most serious human rights violators.

Oral statements delivered under agenda Item 4: Human Rights situations that require the Council's attention.

Mr Sabah Al-Mukhtar, Vice-President of Geneva International Centre for Justice, delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda Item 4, during the General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention, held on 12 March 2013.

Full text of the statement:

The invasion of Iraq, labelled as “liberation” ten years ago, is a crime against peace according to the Nuremberg Charter. As a result, all of the Human Rights of all Iraqis are still being violated all of the time.

The invasion and subsequent counter-insurgency policy, led to hundreds of thousands of killed, and millions displaced. The Constitution imposed by the occupier, renders any political process meaningless.

Notwithstanding the objectives of Security Council Resolution 1859, the Human Rights Council never condemned the illegal invasion and occupation of the state of Iraq.

OHCHR is still reluctant to appoint a Special Rapporteur despite UN reports of continuing abuses.

The four month old uprising of the Iraqis to rid themselves of the regime left by the coalition of the willing is in danger of being crushed. Hence, let no one say “we did not know”.

On the tenth anniversary of the invasion, a series of side events are being held at the Palais des Nations on the 14th and 15th of March, to mark 2013 as the year for accountability and justice for Iraq.

This calls for the ending of the occupation legacies; EU countries which has a Partnership agreement and is doing business with Iraq must apply real pressures on the Iraqi government to stamp out human rights abuses, discrimination and corruption; urgent appointment of a Special Rapporteur for Iraq by OHCHR and that impunity should come to an end; immediate moratorium on executions in Iraq, and finally, Mr President, payment of reparations to Iraq for the unlawful acts by the USA, Britain and other states.

Ms Yanet Bahena, collaborator at GICJ, delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda Item 4, during the General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention, held on 12 March 2013.

Full text of the statement:

Ten years ago, in February and March 2003, the world witnessed the greatest popular manifestations ever for peace and against aggressive war. More than 30 million people took to the streets in public manifestations and leaders of public opinion spoke out against the threat of a US attack against Iraq. Yet the illegal war, opposed by the greatest number of UN Member States, was launched against Iraq by the US-UK led coalition.

As recognized from the outset of the United Nations, the initiation of a war of aggression is not only an international crime; it is the supreme international crime. Such a war entails legal consequences for the aggressors and provides rights for the victims. All countries that participated must be held accountable.

The consequences of the war and the occupation of Iraq have been catastrophic and have resulted in the death of hundreds of thousands Iraqis. The U.S. pursued a policy of division creating a fractious society, which disrupted public services.

Human rights have been systematically violated, the heritage of thousands of years destroyed, and an ancient culture thrown into chaos. Coalition military operations, including massive attacks on cities like Fallujah, together with a counter-insurgency policy, led to substantially increased mortality and massive displacements. Families have been destroyed, displaced and forced into refugee status. Iraq’s education system has been severely damaged. Unemployment rates are high, and Human Rights violations are endemic with a culture of impunity.

Today we ask for accountability and justice for the people of Iraq. The UN must not turn a blind eye to a grave Human Rights situation resulting from aggressive war and continued effects of occupation. We strongly believe that the time has come for the Human Rights Council to reinstate the position as Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Iraq.

It is in this quest for accountability and justice for Iraq that a coalition of NGOs is holding a series of side events taking place the 14th and 15th of March, here at the Palais des Nations.

Ms Kazuko Ito delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda Item 4, during the General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention, held on 12 March 2013.

Full text of the statement:

This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Iraq war. Grave human rights violations against international law have been reported during and after the Iraq war. However, most of the alleged human rights violations have not been properly investigated in domestic and international reports, nor brought to justice.

Victims are still suffering without any reparation.

For instance the US attacks on Fallujah in 2004 were reported to have included direct attack against civilians which caused significant deaths. It has been reported that white-phosphorous weapons and Depleted Uranium were used in civilian areas, without any preventive measure.

Human Rights Now is particularly concerned about the ongoing health risk of Iraq children caused by toxic wastes from the armed conflict. The data of Fallujah general hospital shows that around 15% of babies in Fallujah have congenital birth defects.

This year, Human Rights Now conducted investigation in Fallujah and documented serious birth defects. Without sufficient disclosure of information, related to toxic weapons used during the conflict, the cause of the problem have not yet been identified.

Mr President, we urge the US and UK governments to investigate all grave human rights violations during the war and the occupation of Iraq.

We also call the United Nations to conduct independent investigation on all grave human rights violations since the war to ensure justice, accountability and reparation for all victims. In order to prevent further victimization of children in Iraq, we request the relevant UN Special Rapporteur to adequately investigate the situation of the right to health and life of children, in particular epidemics of congenital birth defects in Iraq.

Ms Gala Maric delivered an oral statement under Human Rights Council Agenda Item 4, during the General Debate on Human Rights Situations that Require the Council’s Attention, held on 12 March 2013.

Full text of the statement:

We are concerned about the continued impunity of some of the most serious human rights violators and regret that both the High Commissioner Office and the Council have failed to take adequate action to redress the killing of as many as three million people by the illegal use of force against the people of Afghanistan and Iraq.

As this august Council convenes for its 22nd regular session, Iraqi - and many others - are commemorating the 10th anniversary of the illegal slaughter of 1.5 million Iraqis, a figure confirmed by a household survey published in the Lancet. Yet, this Council has done nothing to end the impunity of the purveyors of this violence.


Reports submitted to the 22nd Session of the UN Human Rights Council on the Human Rights situation in Iraq

(25 February-22 March 2013)

GICJ and BRussells Tribunal coordinated the work of more than 300 NGOs and submitted to the 22nd session of the UN Human Rights Council reports covering the human rights situation in Iraq.

(the 22nd session of the Human Rights Council took place in the United Nations in Geneva from 25 February to 22 March 2013.)

Reports submitted under agenda item 3 (Promotion and protection of all human rights, civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights, including the right to development.)

Reports submitted under agenda item 4 (Human rights situation that require the Council's attention.)


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Accountability and Justice for Iraq

GICJ documents human rights violations that take place in Iraq and reports them to the concerned bodies of the United Nations such as the Human Rights Council and the UN Special Procedures. The aim of this process is to ensure that all human rights violations in Iraq during the sanctions, the invasion and the occupation be investigated by an international independent body as a step to achieve justice for victims through all possible legal means, and to prevent impunity for the perpetrators and stop similar violations.

In order to achieve maximum effectiveness, GICJ is working in collaboration with a coalition of 300 NGOs, as well as multiple research centres and universities throughout Iraq and the world. GICJ also participates in the realization of the above mentioned objective by submitting reports to the Human Rights Council covering the Human Rights situation in Iraq; delivering oral statements to the Human Rights Council; organising or co-organising side-events, conferences and roundtables; and delivering Human Rights training courses.

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