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Amnesty Urges Sending Human Rights Monitors to Iraq - 2003-04-02


Amnesty International is urging the United Nations to approve sending human rights monitors to Iraq. The group is also calling for an impartial investigation into civilian deaths and urging Iraqi authorities to grant immediate access to U.S. prisoners of war.

Amnesty International is pressing the 53-nation U.N. Human Rights Commission to send rights monitors to Iraq.

Speaking to reporters in Geneva, where the Human Rights Commission is holding its annual meeting, Amnesty's top international law director, Claudio Cordone, said human rights monitors are needed throughout Iraq once security conditions permit. "Their mandate should be to cover serious human rights violations, regardless of who is committing them and to cover situations where we may end up with different powers controlling different parts of the country," he said.

Mr. Cordone says civilian deaths and grave breeches of the rules of war must be investigated. He urged Iraqi authorities to stop disguising their soldiers as civilians, saying it is a violation of international law and endangers civilians. "It is called perfidy in humanitarian law," said Mr. Cordone. "It is a war crime under the International Criminal Court statue."

The Amnesty official says POWs can be detained anywhere, but they must be treated properly, without intimidation. He also said that Iraqi civilians should only be detained inside Iraq. He called on the United States not to send any Iraqi POWs to the U.S. facility in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, where some prisoners of the war in Afghanistan were taken. Because Guantanamo Bay is outside U.S. territory, prisoners held there are not protected under U.S. law.

Mr. Cordone added that Britain is the only power involved in the Iraq war that has signed on to the International Criminal Court. As such, he said, it can be tried by the court if there are any allegations of war crimes.

The Amnesty official says another body already exists that is legally competent to investigate claims of war crimes: The International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission. Both Britain and Australia recognize it, while the United States and Iraq do not.