NGO Letter to the Security Council on Iraq


Richard Moore

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NGO Letter to the Security Council on Iraq

May 19, 2006

From: Arab Commission for Human Rights; ARENA (Asian Regional Exchange for New 
Alternatives); Center for Constitutional Rights; Economists for Peace and 
Security; Former UN Humanitarian Coordinators in Iraq; Global Exchange; Global 
Policy Forum; Hague Appeal for Peace; Institute for Policy Studies; Instituto 
del Tercer Mundo; International Association of Democratic Lawyers; International
Center for Law in Development; International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH);
International Women¹s Tribune Center; Iraq Analysis Group; Justitia Universalis;
Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy; Mennonite Central Committee; Middle East 
Research and Information Project; PLATFORM; Protection of Human Rights Defenders
in the Arab World; Social Watch; Southern Africa Human Rights NGO Network, 
Tanzania Chapter; Tavola della Pace; United Nations Association of Australia; 
United Methodist Church; Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

To: Security Council Permanent Representatives
May 19, 2006
Dear Ambassador:

Resolution 1637 requires the Security Council to review the mandate of the 
Multinational Force (MNF) in Iraq no later than 15 June 2006. The resolution 
also requires a review of the Development Fund for Iraq (DFI) and of the work of
the International Advisory and Monitoring Board (IAMB).

We are writing to urge the Council to conduct a rigorous and thorough review of 
these matters, using the standards of international law and financial oversight 
which the international community expects to be applied. As you are aware, the 
MNF stands accused of many serious violations of international law. The DFI and 
the reconstruction programs have been accused of widespread corruption and 
malfeasance. These are extremely serious matters for the Council to investigate 
and to act upon.

In light of the Council¹s impending review, we call attention to the following 

1. Detentions and Prisons

The MNF has held thousands of Iraqi prisoners for long periods without charge or
trial.(1) The great majority of such prisoners have been denied fundamental 
rights such as contact with legal counsel and family members. The MNF has denied
human rights organizations¹ repeated requests for access to prisons and 
prisoners.(2) The MNF has, apparently, even denied the International Committee 
of the Red Cross full access to prisoners.(3) According to the United Nations 
Assistance Mission for Iraq, the MNF held an estimated fourteen thousand 
prisoners as of February 2006 in four major prisons, as well as many local 
detention centers.(4) UNAMI also reports that the Government of Iraq holds about
fifteen thousand prisoners,(5) and many sources confirm that these detainees are
similarly held without charge or trial and often under deplorable conditions.(6)
In spite of numerous complaints by human rights organizations and by UN 
officials, the MNF has continued these practices for more than three years and 
it has done little to mitigate increasing detention violations by the Government
of Iraq. These are clear violations of the International Covenant on Civil and 
Political Rights (1966).

2. Prisoner Abuse and Torture

In numerous detention centers and prisons, MNF forces have subjected prisoners 
to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, identified by human rights 
authorities as abuse and torture. MNF guards and interrogators have subjected 
Iraqi detainees to an array of physical and psychological mistreatment, 
including severe and prolonged beating, hooding, submersion in water, forced 
nudity, sexual abuse, sleep deprivation, suffocation, electric shocks, threat by
dogs, and other forms of humiliation and prolonged exposure.(7) The cases of 
torture in Abu Ghraib prison are well-known to the whole world. In spite of MNF 
claims that such practices have now ceased, highly-credible sources suggest that
illegal treatment continues.(8) Amnesty International recently reported that 
detainees are being held in Iraq by the United States in ³conditions which can 
amount to torture or ill-treatment.²(9) Amnesty also reports that torture and 
gross abuse have become commonplace in prisons and detention centers controlled 
by the Government of Iraq. According to Amnesty, the MNF turns over detainees to
Iraqi authorities when commanders are ³well aware² of 6.(10) These are clear 
violations of the UN Convention against Torture (1985), The Hague Convention 
(1907) and the Geneva Convention (1949).

3. Use of Illegal, Indiscriminate and Especially Injurious Weapons

The MNF has made use of indiscriminate and especially injurious weapons that are
banned by international convention or widely considered unacceptable and 
inhuman. The MNF has used MK-77,(11) a napalm-type weapon, as well as white 
phosphorus munitions.(12) These have been used directly against ground targets 
in densely populated areas, under circumstances highly likely to affect civilian
populations.(13) These weapons are extremely cruel ­ they stick to the flesh and
burn victims to death. They are also indiscriminate and have incinerated many 
innocent civilians, including women and children. They are banned for these uses
by Protocol III of the UN Convention on Weapons Which May Be Deemed To Be 
Excessively Injurious Or To Have Indiscriminate Effects (1980). During the 2003 
invasion, the Coalition also made use of depleted uranium(14) and cluster 
bombs.(15) Cluster bombs leave unexploded bomblets that later cause civilian 
death and injury and also can harm civilians when exploded in a populated area. 
Powder from exploded DU weapons is believed to cause long-term negative health 
effects. Many consider one or both to violate prohibitions against weapons that 
cause unnecessary suffering and indiscriminate harm, contained in Protocol I of 
the Geneva Conventions.

4. Attacks on Population Centers and Siege Tactics

The Security Council has insisted on the protection of civilians in armed 
conflict.(16) But the MNF has repeatedly targeted heavily-populated civilian 
centers, using aerial and ground bombardment and heavy weapons. In addition to 
the two major offensives on Fallujah in 2004, there have also been assaults on 
other cities and towns including al-Qaim, Tal Afar, Samarra, and Najaf. This 
type of operation, which appears to be ongoing, has resulted in many civilian 
casualties(17) and massive destruction of the urban physical infrastructure,(18)
leaving large percentages of the population as refugees ­ some 200,000 refugees 
in the case of Fallujah alone.(19) During these operations, MNF forces have 
reportedly cut off vital necessities, including water(20) and medical 
supplies(21) ­ siege tactics explicitly prohibited under Article 14 of the 
Second Protocol of the Geneva Conventions ­ and they have clearly failed to 
respect the neutrality of medical facilities.(22) These acts are prohibited 
under numerous articles of the Geneva Conventions (1949).

5. Irregularities in Spending and Lack of Oversight of the Development Fund for 

In May 2003, the Security Council created the Development Fund for Iraq under 
Resolution 1483 and the UN eventually turned over US$9.978 billion to the 
Fund.(23) The Fund also received income from previously frozen funds and it has 
received regular revenues from Iraq¹s oil sales. Though under Coalition/MNF 
control or influence, a disturbingly large portion of these funds have been 
disbursed but not accounted for.(24) Investigations by US government accountants
have revealed that many contracts have been awarded without bids.(25) In some 
cases, irregularities identified by US and international auditing bodies extend 
to outright theft.(26) Other irregularities, including sole-source contracts, 
missing documentation, massive over-charging, kickbacks, undocumented and 
unexplainable disbursement, have been repeatedly highlighted by auditors 
including the International Advisory and Monitoring Board and the Special 
Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.(27) In one contract scandal recently 
made public, of 150 clinics to be built, only 6 had been completed with $186 
million spent.(28) The MNF has thus allowed an environment of corruption to 
flourish, with ineffective control and oversight. Further, smuggling rings are 
diverting oil from official channels and shipping it out of the country on a 
large scale,(29) leaving the DFI with shrunken revenues, eroded by corruption, 
to pay for mounting Iraqi needs. The UN Convention Against Corruption (2003), 
which recently entered into force, addresses many of these issues.

6. Gross Failure to Protect Cultural Heritage

In spite of many warnings from respected expert groups,(30) the Coalition failed
to protect Iraq¹s priceless cultural heritage in the early weeks of the invasion
and war. The National Library was badly damaged by fire and many of its archives
were totally lost.(31) Looters stole a large number of important objects from 
the National Museum.(32) Looters also damaged or destroyed historic buildings 
and artifacts and looters began the wholesale pillage of Iraq¹s unprotected 
archeological sites.(33) Subsequently, the MNF constructed a military base on 
the archeological site of Babylon, where substantial damage resulted.(34) The 
MNF has failed to materially improve its protection of historic buildings and 
archaeological sites. Rebuilding and restoration by the MNF has been inadequate.
Above all, the tragic and preventable looting of Iraq¹s archeological sites 
(some of the world¹s most important cultural heritage) continues.(35) These acts
are prohibited under the World Heritage Convention (1972).

7. Impunity

The rule of law cannot function in conditions of impunity. The Security Council 
has affirmed the importance of the rule of law and the end of impunity, as means
towards peace and reconciliation.(36) However, the MNF has claimed broad 
impunity for its forces, for private security personnel, for foreign military 
and civilian contractors, and even for the oil companies doing business with 
Iraq.(37) The Iraqi people and their government have virtually no legal 
recourse. The United States and other MNF members have applied limited legal 
reckoning in a few flagrant cases of torture and gross financial malfeasance, 
but even in the matter of torture, few cases have been thoroughly reviewed and 
brought to justice, as a recent report by Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First
and the NYU School of Law makes clear.(38) Those with command responsibility 
have remained beyond the law. Since MNF officials cite Council mandates 
(Resolutions 1483, 1511, and 1546) as a primary legal basis for their action, 
the Council bears a special responsibility for these practices of impunity.

In conclusion, we urge the Security Council to review the MNF mandate rigorously
and completely. At the very least, the Council could stipulate specific 
standards of conduct for the MNF to bring it into conformity with international 
law. For example, the Council could insist that detainees be charged after a 
short period or be released; it could mandate that all detention facilities be 
open to inspection by the ICRC and human rights organizations; it could prohibit
attacks upon civilian centers; it could rule out the use of indiscriminate and 
especially injurious weapons; it could insist on adequate protection of heritage
sites; it could set a high and rigorously enforced anti-corruption standard; it 
could establish an absolute prohibition on abuse and torture; and it could 
explore ways to end the practices of impunity.

We believe the time has come for the Security Council to assume its 
responsibility, to thoroughly discuss these matters in light of international 
law, to consult with the international community, and to substantially 
reconsider, revise or terminate the mandate it has given to the MNF.

Yours sincerely,

Violette Daguerre
Arab Commission for Human Rights

Vicki Semler
Executive Director
International Women¹s Tribune Center
Agnes Khoo
Executive Director
ARENA (Asian Regional Exchange for New Alternatives)

Rachel Laurence
Senior Researcher
Iraq Analysis Group
Peter Weiss
Center for Constitutional Rights

Rachid Mesli
Justitia Universalis
Lucy Law Webster
Board Member and UN Observer
Economists for Peace and Security

John Burroughs
Executive Director
Lawyers' Committee on Nuclear Policy
Denis J. Halliday,
Former UN Assistant Secretary General and
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq 1997-98

Robb Davis
Executive Director
Mennonite Central Committee
Hans von Sponeck
Former UN Assistant Secretary General and
UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Iraq 1998-2000

Chris Toensing
Executive Director
Middle East Research and Information Project
Medea Benjamin
Global Exchange

Greg Muttit
James A. Paul
Executive Director
Global Policy Forum

Haytham Manna
Protection of Human Rights Defenders in the Arab World

Cora Weiss
Hague Appeal for Peace

Rehema Kerefu
National Coordinator
Southern Africa Human Rights NGO Network, Tanzania Chapter
Phyllis Bennis,
Director New Internationalism Project
Institute for Policy Studies

Flavio Lotti
National Coordinator
Tavola della Pace

Roberto Bissio
Instituto del Tercer Mundo
Social Watch
Else M. Adjali
NGO Representative to the UN, Global Ministries
United Methodist Church

Jeanne Mirer
Secretary General
International Association of Democratic Lawyers

James E. Winkler
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society
United Methodist Church
Clarence Dias
International Center for Law in Development

John Langmore
National President
UN Association of Australia
Sidiki Kaba
International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH)

Regina Birchem
International President
Women's International League for Peace and Freedom

(1.) Amnesty International. Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and Torture in Iraq ( 
March 2006), 16-22.

(2.) Amnesty International. Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and Torture in Iraq 
(March 2006).

(3.) CPA Memorandum No. 3, section 6, para 8. The Memorandum further provides 
for the Iraqi Prisons and Detainee Ombudsman to have access to ³security 
internees² but such access may also be denied ³for reasons of imperative 
necessity as an exceptional and temporary measure.²

(4.) UN Assistance Mission for Iraq, Human Rights Report, January 1- February 
28, 2006.

(5.) Ibid.

(6.) Human Rights Watch. New Iraq? Torture and Ill-Treatment of Detainees in 
Iraqi Custody (January 2005).

(7.) Amnesty International. Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and Torture in Iraq 
(March 2006).

(8.) Ibid, 25-41.

(9.) Amnesty International, US Government Creating a Climate of Torture (May 3, 

(10.) Amnesty International. Beyond Abu Ghraib: Detention and Torture in Iraq 
(March 2006), 8.

(11.) Iraq Analysis Group. Fire Bombs in Iraq: Napalm by Any Other Name 
(March/April 2005).

(12.) Jason E.Levy: ³TTPs for the 60mm mortar section². Infantry Magazine 
(May/June 2004) and Captain James T. Cobb, First Lieutenant Christopher A. 
LaCour and Sergeant First Class William H. Hight: ³The Fight for Fallujah². 
Field Artillery (March/April 2005).

(13.) Rai News 24, ³Fallujah: La Strage Nascosta² [Fallujah: The hidden 
massacre] (November 2005).

(14.) Scott Peterson: ³Remains of Toxic Bullets Litter Iraq². Christian Science 
Monitor (May 15, 2003).

(15.) Human Rights Watch. Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilians 
Casualties in Iraq (December 2003).

(16.) UN Security Council Resolutions 1265 (1999), 1296 (2000), and 1674 (2006).

(17.) Iraq Body Count estimates over 600 civilian casualties, while the John 
Hopkins mortality study suggests civilian casualties rates in the city that 
would be consistent with well over 10,000 deaths during the spring and fall 2004
operations. No official records have been compiled. John Hopkins Bloomberg 
School of Public health. Iraqi Civilian Deaths Increase Dramatically After 
Invasion (October 28, 2004).

(18.) Dr. Hafid al-Dulaimi, head of Fallujah¹s compensation commission, reports 
that 36,000 homes and 8,400 shops were destroyed. The destroyed homes would have
sheltered about 200,000 people. Many thousand additional homes have been so 
badly damaged as to be uninhabitable. [see Steele and Jamail: ³This Is our 
Guernica², Guardian (April 27, 2005)].

(19.) UNAMI, Situation Report (November 1-14, 2004).

(20.) Iraq Analysis Group. Denial of Water to Iraqi Cities. (November 10, 2004).

(21.) Mike Marqusee: ³A Name that Lives in Infamy². Guardian. (November 10, 

(22.) Humanitarian Law Project/International Educational Development (HLP/IED 
and San Francisco-based Association of Humanitarian Lawyers (AHL), submitted a 
petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights of the Organization of
American States on behalf of "unnamed, unnumbered patients and medical staff 
both living and dead" at the medical facilities in Fallujah. The OAS has 
registered the lawsuit as "Petition No. P-1258-04 United States."

(23.) UN Office of the Iraq Programme website reports that transfers of $1 
billion each were made on 28 May, 31 October and 18 November 2003 from the 
United Nations Iraq escrow account, at the request of the Security Council 
contained in paragraph 17 of resolution 1483 (2003) of 22 May 2003. Another $2.6
billion was transferred on 31 December 2003, a further $2 billion on 31 March 
and $0.5 billion on 19 April 2004. Three more transfers, totaling $1.128 
billion, were made in 2004 and three transfers totaling $0.75 billion have been 
made in 2005.

(24.) Christian Aid. Iraq. The Missing Billions (October 2004).

(25.) The IAMB expressed concern over no-bid contracts in a letter to Ambassador
Paul Bremer of April 5, 2004. Ref: IAMB ­ 6. Further, in December 2004, Iraq 
Revenue Watch reported that ³Seventy-three percent of the value of contracts 
worth over $5 million and paid for with DFI funds were not competitively bid.² 
Revenue Watch. Briefing Number 9, Audit Finds More Irregularities and 
Mismanagement of Iraq's Revenue (December 2004), 2.

(26.) Revenue Watch. Briefing Number 9, op cit, notes one case highlighted in a 
2004 IAMB report where $774,300 was stolen from a division¹s vault. See 
³Development Fund for Iraq: Report of Factual Findings in connection with 
Disbursements for the period from 1 January 2004 to 28 June 2004,² KPMG Bahrain 
(September 2004), 23.

(27.) See for example the Office of the Inspector General of the Coalition 
Provisional Authority, Third Quarterly Report to Congress (October 30, 2004), 
Appendix J, DoD Status Report on Iraq or Development Fund for Iraq, Report of 
Factual Findings in connection with Disbursements, continued for the period from
1 January 2004 to 28 June 2004, or other IAMB, CPA-IG and SIGIR reports.

(28.) Jonathan Finer: ³US Report Cites Progress, Shortfalls In Iraq Rebuilding,²
Washington Post (May 1, 2006).

(29.) As examined in a recent Iraqi Oil Ministry Report, described in Jim Muir: 
³Iraq Oil Gangs Syphon off Billions,² Telegraph (April 28, 2006).

(30.) Including the Archeological Institute of America, Society for American 
Archeology, and UNESCO

(31.) ³Prized Iraqi Annals Lost ŒIn Blaze¹² BBC (April 14, 2003).

(32.) John F. Burns: ³Pillagers Strip Iraqi Museum of its Treasure². New York 
Times (April 12, 2003).

(33.) UNESCO News Service, ³First Experts Meeting on the Iraqi Cultural 
Heritage² (April 17, 2003).

(34.) British Museum, Report on Meeting at Babylon (December 11-13, 2004).

(35.) Mark Fischer: ³Tomb Raiders². Index on Censorship (February 2006) and 
reproduced in the Guardian (January 19, 2006).

(36.) UN Security Council Presidential Statement on Justice and the Rule of Law:
the United Nations Role. S/PRST/2004/34 (October 6, 2004).

(37.) Coalition Provisional Authority. Order 17. CPA/ORD/27 June 2004/17.

(38.) Human Rights Watch, Human Rights First, and NYU Center for Human Rights 
and Global Justice, By the Numbers: Findings of the Detainee Abuse and 
Accountability Project (April 2006).

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