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22 May 2003 - For Immediate Release
For more information contact:
Colin Rowat - +44 121 414 3754 (office), +44 7768 056984 (mobile)
Nicholas Martin (CASI Co-ordinator) - +44 7930 104606 (mobile)
NGO welcomes lifting of sanctions, calls on UN to learn from mistakes
Today's lifting of sanctions on Iraq is a welcome move which should have been made many years ago, says Cambridge-based Campaign Against Sanctions on Iraq. The move is undoubtedly a step forward for Iraq. However, it should also provide an opportunity to reflect on the lessons learned from a policy which failed to achieve its aims, and proved a disaster for Iraqi civilians.
Sanctions have been one of the primary causes of the humanitarian disaster suffered by Iraq over the past 13 years. Economic sanctions, by their very nature, are designed to inflict economic hardship on civilian populations. By preventing the free import and export of goods, they in effect rendered the administration of Iraq similar to that of a refugee camp, run by the United Nations.
The income available to the country under sanctions was entirely insufficient to meet the needs of its population: in 2002 it totalled roughly one-twelfth per person of what it was in 1979/80.
Several senior UN officials resigned in protest against the policy, including two UN humanitarian coordinators for Iraq, Hans von Sponeck and Denis Halliday. Ramiro Lopez da Silva, who currently holds the same position, stated on May 3rd that sanctions have had "an extremely negative impact on the Iraqi population ... As a result of the sanctions regime and the general impoverishment of the Iraqi society, we decimated what used to be a dynamic and active middle class. ... The sanctions regime contributed [to] a general degradation of the humanitarian situation ... Furthermore the sanctions regime was a tool that allowed the regime to create an increased dependency level of the Iraqi population vis a vis the state apparatus."
This 'degradation in the humanitarian situation' is detailed more thoroughly
in a 1999 report by the UN humanitarian panel: "In marked contrast
to the prevailing situation prior to the events of 1990-91, the infant
mortality rates in Iraq today are among the highest in the world, low
infant birth weight affects at least 23% of all births, chronic
CASI founder Seb Wills said today that "Sanctions used Iraqi civilians as pawns in the West's dispute with Saddam Hussein. Several hundred thousand excess child deaths from malnutrition occurred during this dispute, and sanctions bear a substantial share of the responsibility for this. Sanctions inflicted hardship and misery on millions of Iraqis."
CASI calls on the international community to acknowledge and learn from the mistakes of the past, and hopes that in the future economic sanctions will not be imposed without serious consideration of their humanitarian consequences. Along with our sorrow for the suffering caused by our government over the past decade, we would like to express our heartfelt wishes that the future is brighter for Iraqis than the past has been, and that their hardship will not be forgotten as the eyes of the world media shift elsewhere.
NOTES FOR JOURNALISTS
CASI, the Campaign against Sanctions on Iraq, is a humanitarian NGO which has been campaigning on humanitarian grounds for the lifting of sanctions on Iraq since 1997.
CASI has never supported or had ties to Saddam Hussein or the Ba'ath party, and took no position for or against the invasion of Iraq.
CASI takes no position on those portions of the new resolution which do not relate to sanctions.
CASI will disband in the near future and its funds will be donated to charities working in Iraq.
More information on sanctions can be found at www.casi.org.uk
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