Published in the Baghdad Observer, September 22, 1999
Entering the tenth year of the economic sanctions imposed on Iraq, we do not yet see the end of the suffering. As a person who has consistently and intensively opposed these criminal sanctions, I am aware that the Iraqi authorities have attempted to alleviate in many ways the dramatic consequences of the sanctions. I am not in a position to assess the extent of such measures but have no reason to doubt […] UN reports reporting and commending such measures.
While recognizing the efforts made domestically by the Iraqi authorities to mitigate the hardship, it appears to me that Iraq has not availed itself of the various international opportunities in order to stop the sanctions. Such opportunities are to be found in the domain of public advocacy, the UN system and the legal order.
According to Foreign Affairs, a conservative US magazine, the United States imposes currently economic sanctions on over 35 countries, most of which are located in the third world. The increasing use of economic sanctions against third world countries is often justified on such concepts as support for human rights. But a careful assessment of the support given by the US to undemocratic regimes throughout the world shows that the real goal of economic sanctions is economic. This goal is akin to that pursued by the International Monetary fund and the World Bank: Namely to maintain the hegemony of Western corporations and banks over the international economic system and prevent the emergence of independent economic powers. In preventing countries from enjoying their full economic rights, sanctions are an effective way to maintain them in poverty and induce their compliance with Western diktat.
The Iraqi government is certainly aware of this phenomena (sic) as it is on the receiving end of such measures. Why doesn’t it take initiatives within the non-aligned movement in order to garner a consistent opposition to such measures? One possibility open to the Group of 77 within the UN would be to propose a General Assembly resolution requesting an Advisory Opinion from the International Court of Justice regarding the legality of comprehensive economic sanctions, with particular regards to the needs of developing countries. Such a demarche has proved successful with regards to nuclear weapons. Aren’t comprehensive economic sanctions as weapon of mass destruction?
The terrible consequences of the sanctions against the Iraqi people are now well documented. Iraqi official statements maintain that the sanctions should be lifted because Iraq has fully complied with the demands of the Security Council. Such statements imply that the sanctions were justified as long as Iraq did not “fully complied”. I can hardly believe that this is what the Iraqi government wishes to convey. By making such statements the Iraqi authorities nevertheless undermine the efforts to define the sanctions as gross human rights violations and provide legitimacy to the demands imposed on Iraq.
Finally, measures that cause the deaths of over half a million Iraqi children, are clearly illegal and criminal under international law. Lawyers may argue whether they are war crimes, crimes against humanity or genocide, but nobody can argue that international law permits such massive slaughter. The victims must be defended, morally, politically and legally. Under general principles of justice and the law of civilized nations they are entitled to remedy and it is the task of the Iraqi authorities to help them seek redress. The Iraqi government is their official representative towards the international community and should take all necessary measures to give force to such rights.