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Amnesty Urges Use of Human Rights Monitors in Iraq - 2003-03-09

The head of the international human rights group Amnesty International is calling for human rights monitors in Iraq to track conditions during and after any conflict there.

Amnesty International Secretary-General Irene Khan said the humanitarian consequences of a conflict in Iraq cannot be underestimated.

In an interview with VOA, Ms. Khan raises concerns about public security in the aftermath of any conflict that topples Saddam Hussein and that could unleash a wave of revenge killings.

"We would hope the protection of the people would be taken into account. In humanitarian crises, there is a lot of emphasis on tents and medical supplies and food and so on. And, that's very important. But security and protection of the people are absolutely fundamental," she said.

Ms. Khan is in Amman to participate in Women's Day celebrations. She also plans to discuss the impact of the Iraqi crisis during her meeting with King Abdullah and government officials. "And we would hope that Jordan, in keeping with its humanitarian traditions, would keep its borders open, and give sanctuary to those in need of sanctuary," she said.

Jordan has agreed to set up two refugee camps along its border with Iraq to handle Iraqis and foreign workers fleeing any conflict there.

Amnesty International also has warned of the impact of the deteriorating human rights conditions in Israel and the Palestinian territories. "We are afraid that, as international attention focuses on Iraq, it will shift away from that conflict, which is going to make it worse. People are very upset, people are angry about what's happening, angry that no attention is being given to their plight, while attention is being focused on Iraq," Ms. Khan said.

Ms. Khan said simmering public anger in the region over the unresolved Israeli-Palestinian conflict and a possible war in Iraq could also fuel a backlash against human rights, as Arab governments try to prevent any civil unrest.

She says Amnesty has reported an increase in government restrictions on freedom of expression and public demonstrations.