Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Looting, Lawlessness and Humanitarian Consequences

I know it's "old news" now, but this is worth reading. From Amnesty International, a damning assessment of our performance, or lack of, in maintaining order in Iraq.

Widespread looting and arson. Lawlessness and reprisal attacks. Water shortages and power cuts. Overwhelmed and ransacked hospitals. Disorder hampering humanitarian relief agencies. This is the grim reality facing millions of Iraqi civilians in areas newly under the control of US/UK forces. As one Iraqi told a BBC reporter on 10 April, "No authority now. No law now. No anything. Thieves anywhere."

US and UK authorities were repeatedly warned before the conflict by Amnesty International and others that there was a grave risk of widespread disorder, humanitarian crisis and human rights abuses, including revenge attacks, once the Iraqi government's authority was removed. Now that US/UK forces are occupying substantial parts of Iraq, they must live up to their specific responsibilities under international human rights and humanitarian law to protect the rights of Iraqi people.

Also from Amnesty, a call to ensure justice and accountability for human rights abuses in Iraq.

Amnesty International stresses that the UN has recognized expertise and authoritativeness in this field. As such, the UN should play the leading role in developing proposals for reforming the Iraqi criminal justice system and could recommend transitional and complementary approaches in the meantime, regardless of the arrangements made for governing Iraq.

"Proposals for using US or UK tribunals are undesirable, since they risk being perceived as victors' - justice. Certain proposals such as the use of US military commissions, which are not even courts, would be grossly unfair under international law," Amnesty International emphasized.

Possible transitional approaches under consideration include an international ad hoc tribunal and a mixed tribunal. Existing approaches including universal jurisdiction, could make an important contribution, and a regional tribunal should be examined. Amnesty International's report discusses the strengths and weaknesses of the various approaches under consideration.

Stay tuned.