July 31 – April 18, 2000
Palais des Nations, Geneva
Franciscans International and Dominicans for Justice and Peace wish to alert the Sub-Commission to the impact on children of armed conflicts and international sanctions. We also wish to express our appreciation for the Sub-Commission’s resolution on human rights and the humanitarian consequences of sanctions, including embargoes. adopted at this session (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/L.9).
According to article 38 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, States commit themselves to respect and to ensure respect for rules of humanitarian law applicable to children. The same article of the Convention also declares that States Parties “shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict”. We realize however that after ten years of economic sanctions against Iraq, they are still in place and create every day new victims among children.
A number of UN reports have described the serious violations of humanitarian laws as a result of the economic embargo. Additionally, we received information which was gathered in our schools and clinics during a visit to Iraq in March 2000 of Dominican Justice and Peace Promoters from the United States. These violations of the most elementary humanitarian laws also led three senior UN personnel who were responsible for the humanitarian programs in Iraq to resign their positions.
In his excellent. working paper prepared for the Sub-Commission, “The adverse consequences of economic sanctions on the enjoyment of human rights” (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2000/33), Marc Bossuyt highlighted the serious violations of other international human rights instruments which are also applicable to the children in Iraq,
In spite of the devastating reports from the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the UN Development Program and many NGOs, nothing has been done to put an end to the violations of the most fundamental rights of the children of Iraq. The humanitarian disaster is such that UNICFF reports that more than 500,000 children under five years of age have died as a result of the embargo, between 1991 and 1995. There, are still 5000 children dying every month in Iraq.
For ten years, a whole generation of children born after the war have been deprived of the right to adequate food which would have allowed them to develop as normal and healthy human beings. According to statements of some of our members on site, many families are forced to sell their houses, their furniture and sometimes their own clothes to feed themselves. Further, the length of the crisis has shaken the foundations of the traditional practice of families helping each other. An increasing number of women find themselves alone to raise and to meet the needs of their children, The economic sanctions have a devastating effect not only on the survival of children, but also on their moral, social and psychological development, in violation of article 27 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Further, over a ten year period a whole generation of children have been deprived of normal access to education. The regime of sanctions has also hampered the renewal of school materials as well as the access to culture, to sciences and the new technologies, which had been previously widespread.
In his presentation to the Security Council on March 24, 2000, the Secretary General of the United Nations, Koffi Annan stated that the humanitarian situation in Iraq poses a serious moral dilemma for the UN. He said: “The UN has always been on the side of the vulnerable and the weak, and has always sought to relieve suffering, and yet here we are accused of causing suffering to an entire population.” Mr. Annan continued by expressing his particular concern about the situation of the children of Iraq who are the main victims of the sanctions regime.
The embargo which weighs heavily on Iraq has had a devastating effect on civil society, destabilizing elementary social relations, both educationally and commercially. This has been corroborated in reports by the specialized agencies of the United Nations.
Most of the child victims were not even born at the time of the Gulf War. These innocent children did not die as a result of combat. They died as a result of measures decreed by an organization whose mission was to protect their peace and security. Because of the length of time that the sanctions have been in place, these are no longer economic but constitute a humanitarian problem. Alarmingly, in harming and devastating children over a period of ten consecutive years, the sanctions have placed the future of a whole people in peril. As recognized by the UN Secretary General, it is more than ever time to reverse the process.
Franciscans International and Dominicans for Justice and Peace. in harmony with the message of the UN Secretary General, the call of Pope John Paul II and of the Synod of Bishops of Asia in 1998 ask the international community to take all means possible to bring an end to the sanctions which weigh heavily on the children of Iraq and to guarantee the respect of the rules of international humanitarian law in their regard.