Calls to end UN’s silence in Iraq

The US Coalition is the principal cause of Iraq’s current woes, charges a report released Wednesday by the Global Policy Forum (GPF), a New York-based watchdog group. Since the March 2003 invasion, the US-British occupation of Iraq has “utterly failed to bring peace, prosperity and democracy, as originally advertised,” says the report, entitled “War and Occupation in Iraq”. “The UN and the international community must end the complicity of silence and they must vigorously address the Iraq crisis,” it says.

Produced by GPF and 29 INGOs, the report was released to coincide with UN Security Council consultations on the Iraq problem. The 117-page report assesses conditions in the country, especially the responsibility of the US-led Coalition, for violations of international law and concludes with recommendations for action, including a speedy withdrawal of Coalition forces.

It covers areas such as destruction of cultural heritage, unlawful detention, killing and torture of civilians, displacement, corruption and fraud, attacks on cities and long-term military bases.

“This is not under control, and is something the Coalition is saying it is doing under mandate of the UN Security Council,” James Paul, GPF’s executive director, told reporters Wednesday. “The Security Council has done virtually nothing on this subject; [it] has to take its head out of the sand,” Paul stressed.

The increasing bloodshed and sectarian division among Iraqis is abhorrent, the report emphasises, but whatever responsibility Iraqis themselves bear for the present impasse within the country, the primary responsibility lies with the US and its Coalition, whose military occupation gave rise to these groups and whose policies have failed to protect the Iraqis.

The chapter on detention details the US Coalition and its Iraqi government partners’ practice of holding large numbers of Iraqis in “security detention” without charge or trial, in direct violation of international law. Detainees lack fundamental rights and they are kept in deplorable physical conditions, according to the GPF report, which tallies with recent reports published by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International. Torture and secret interrogations increasingly take place in Iraqi prisons, apparently with US awareness and complicity, according to the report.

The attacks have left hundreds of thousands of people homeless and in displacement camps, according to UN figures. The report also recounts how under the control or influence of US authorities, public funds in Iraq have been drained by corruption and stolen oil, leaving the country unable to provide basic services and incapable of rebuilding. Billions have disappeared, the report stresses.

To avoid accountability, the US and Britain undercut the UN-mandated International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB), according to GPF. “The IAMB hasn’t discovered a single instance of fraud or malfeasance,” Paul said, emphasising that the Security Council “hasn’t taken a single step to strengthen the IAMB.”

Though the Council had refused to authorise the war, just a few months later it mandated the Coalition as a “multinational force.” Council members at the time hoped that the UN would assume a “vital role” in Iraq, leading the way back to peace. But this did not happen. — IPS