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Human Rights Expert:  Rights of Ordinary Iraqis Must be Protected - 2003-04-01

A U.N. expert on Iraq says that the world body must be ready to send people into the country as soon as the war is ended. The official said a system must be set up to safeguard innocent Iraqis.

The U.N. investigator for human rights in Iraq, Andreas Mavrommatis, said the day after the war is over the U.N. must be prepared to go into Iraq to ensure that the rights of ordinary Iraqis are protected. "There should be a U.N. human rights presence in Iraq in order to ensure there is no victimization, there is no revenge killing and the seeds are sown safely for a respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the future," he said.

Speaking to reporters after addressing the annual six-week session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, Mr. Mavrommatis called on both sides in the war to uphold international humanitarian law and avoid the loss of innocent lives.

Looking beyond the fighting, he said the United Nations should be prepared to advise Iraqis on building a civil society that will protect their rights.

"I want elections that will not have a 100 percent support for one person. It's things like that. Giving time to opposition to put in a word, its own program. All these things cannot be created overnight, but they need time, especially if you want to have a mechanism, like a national human rights commission, that would look into allegations. Heal the ethnic divergences, to use an understatement, between the majority Shi'a, who were marginalized, and the others," he said.

Mr. Mavrommatis has monitored the human rights situation in Iraq over the past four years.

After Mr. Mavrommatis remarks to the rights commission, Iraq's ambassador to the U.N. in Geneva, Samir al-Nima, accused the U.N. official of failing to address violations he said were carried out by the coalition forces. He also accused the U.N. special investigator of relying too heavily on information from sources he said were hostile to Iraq.