Palais des Nations, Geneva
UN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Palais des Nations, Geneva
March 17-April 25, 2003
Item 13: Rights of the Child
Dominicans for Justice and Peace, Caritas Internationalis, Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Dominican Leadership Conference, Canadian Council of Churches, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, International Presentation Association: Sisters of the Presentation, Congregations of Saint Joseph, Maryknoll Sisters Inc. and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, in conjunction with Franciscans International and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives, wish to bring to the attention of the UN Commission on Human Rights the impact of international sanctions and war on children and women. We are also extremely concerned about the harmful and long-lasting consequences, especially on children and women, of the use of cluster bombs and depleted uranium.
Our stance on these issues is a humanitarian, ethical and moral one and it stems from our grave concern about the devastation brought upon by sanctions and armed conflict on the lives of thousands of children and women worldwide and about the gross and ongoing violations of their fundamental rights and freedoms. We raise in particular the specter of the physical, and long-term emotional, psychological and moral impact on children and women of the bombings Iraq, following on 12 years of sanctions.
Human rights violations
In war situations and under a sanctions system, the rights of children are often violated if not neglected. Yet, article 38 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child binds states to commit themselves to respect and to ensure respect for rules of humanitarian law applicable to children. It also declares that State Parties “shall take all feasible measures to ensure protection and care of children who are affected by an armed conflict”. Further, article 3 of the Convention declares that “in all actions concerning children, … the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration.” Notwithstanding such obligations, these articles of the Convention are systematically violated on a daily basis during wars and conflicts.
In a statement made on March 21, 2003, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed conflict, Olara A. Otunnu stressed that “the children of Iraq are innocent, and all parties must make their protection “an absolute priority”. Looking beyond the conflict, Mr. Otunnu said, “we must now begin to put in place plans to ensure that the well-being, rehabilitation and development of the children of Iraq will constitute a central aspect of any programs for post-conflict recovery and reconstruction.”
Impact on children
Because of sanctions, a whole generation of children born after the 1991 war in Iraq have been deprived of the right to adequate food and to clean water which would allow them to develop normally. Now, the war in Iraq adds to this by seriously affecting and disadvantaging another generation of children. The economic sanctions have a devastating effect which another war intensifies not only for 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.
Most of the child victims of the sanctions were not even born at the time of the 1991. These children did not die as a result of combat. Because of the length of time that the sanctions have been in place, they constitute a humanitarian problem which imperils the future of a people, a situation rendered even more alarming by the war.
In the meeting convened by the World Council of Churches in Berlin on 5th February 2003, the European church leaders together with representatives of the Conference of European Churches, the National Council of Churches of Christ in the USA and the Middle East Council of Churches noted “the plight of Iraqi children and the unnecessary deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis over the past 12 years of sanctions regime weighs heavily in our hearts.”
Use of depleted uranium
In addition to the effects of sanctions, there is the effect of environmental pollution in Iraq, in particular, of depleted uranium, which is chemically and radiologically toxic. Epidemiological studies show that the increased incidence of congenital abnormalities and defects, cancers in all age groups are directly related to exposure to depleted uranium, either by ingestion, inhalation or skin contact. The use of depleted uranium in the present conflict can only add to spreading illnesses, environmental pollution and degradation of the land.
In a statement shortly before the beginning of the war against Iraq, the Secretary General of Caritas Internationalis declared “that the world is on the brink of a major humanitarian catastrophe”. Caritas Internationalis is one of the world’s largest humanitarian networks. It is a confederation 154 Catholic organization relief, development and social service organizations working in 198 countries and territories. The Secretary General of the organization further stated that “the victims will again be in the first instance, the most vulnerable, especially the children of Iraq. The people of Iraq are already in sorrowful state. Between 14 and 16 million people (two thirds of the population)) are entirely dependent on food rations. As previously explained by Caritas Internationalis, the economic embargo imposed by the UN Security Council twelve years ago is largely responsible for this situation” We mourn the unjust deaths of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children whose lives were lost for no fault of their own.
Reports from the Red Cross and other organizations are being released about the number of children killed and those seriously seriously injuredin the war, even in homes, in hospitals and on the streets. The full story is bound to be told of the devastation in the country following 12 years of sanctions and the war. When the full truth is made known about the destruction of the lives of children and women, the international community will need to render justification for these acts and recognize their responsibility for the massive rebuilding of a devastated society.
Dominicans for Justice and Peace, Caritas Internationalis, Commission of Churches on International Affairs of the World Council of Churches, Dominican Leadership Conference, Canadian Council of Churches, Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, International Presentation Association of the Sisters of the Presentation, Congregationsof Saint Joseph, Maryknoll Sisters Inc. and the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, in conjunction with Franciscans International and KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives,
• strongly recommend that the international community through the United Nations seek ways and means to establish peace and to bring an end to the sanctions against the people of Iraq;
• strongly urge the UN Commission on Human Rights to take seriously its Charter obligation to monitor the implementation and respect for international human rights law and to denounce the ongoing violations of the most fundamental human rights of women and children in conflicts and wars and to ensure the application of the guiding principle of the UN Convention on the rights of the child that “in all actions concerning children, the best interest of the child shall be a primary consideration;
• strongly recommend that the international community through the United Nations continue their search for peaceful and just solutions in all situations of conflict rather than resorting to war which can only bring untold horror and irreversible harm to the most vulnerable;
• strongly urge the international community through the United Nations to take with utmost seriousness its responsibilities for the monumental and long-term challenge of the recovery and reconstruction of Iraq, devastated both by long-term sanctions and by the ravages of war.