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Australia - sanctions against Iraq
Letter from Australian Women's International League for Peace and Freedom ...
22 November 1999
Hon. Alexander Downer MHR
Dear Mr Downer
Re UN Sanctions Against Iraq
The Women's International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) which was founded during World War I is the world's largest women's peace organisation with sections in over 40 countries around the world. We write now on behalf of the Australian Section of WILPF concerning the impact of UN sanctions against Iraq.
Although differences exist among estimates for the rate of deaths and consequent disease among the Iraqi population, the privations and suffering inflicted upon ordinary Iraqis by way of UN sanctions are beyond dispute. By even the most conservative estimates, the price in deaths of civilians (including children) is extraordinarily high. Reliable sources indicate that between 1 and 1.5 million Iraqi civilians have died as a direct result of the sanctions. In 1996, UNICEF estimated that four and a half thousand children were dying per month due to the sanctions. Other estimates put the number of child deaths as high as 6 or 7 thousand per month. This is an abomination by anyone's standards and the outcome of a flawed policy from which we believe the Government of Australia should now move internationally to dissociate itself.
In addition to deaths, the destruction of infrastructure due to the impact of the sanctions has had a catastrophic effect on the provision of health and education in the country. We are reliably informed that the supplies of water, sewerage and electricity have all been seriously damaged and, as a consequence, that health provision has been reduced to "Third World standards". Education has similarly been reduced to a parlous state.
The "Oil for Food" program is manifestly inadequate and, despite claims to the contrary, the regime inside Iraq has had a high degree of success in distributing the humanitarian supplies under the "Oil for Food" program.
After seven and a half years of the operation of these sanctions, it is clear that they have been unsuccessful in achieving their stated goal, namely the replacement of the regime of Saddam Hussein. Ironically, the sanctions may even have had the opposite effect, further entrenching the oppressive regime in power. As one observer recently remarked, it is extremely difficult to work towards a change in one's government when one is struggling just to survive.
Since the sanctions against Iraq violate the Geneva Convention which prohibits the "starvation of civilians as a method of warfare" and since they also violate the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention on the Rights of the Child, we regard them not only as immoral but also illegal.
We understand that in June, the frigate HMAS Melbourne was sent on another tour of duty as part of the UN force to enforce the sanctions. In our view, all nations which have supported and sponsored the sanctions, including Australia, must bear some degree of responsibility for the continued suffering and deaths of the Iraqi people under the sanctions.
We therefore urge the Australian Government to withdraw support for the immoral and illegal policy which has proved itself unworkable and to work in all international forums for the removal of the sanctions against the innocent people of Iraq.
We thank you for your kind attention and look forward to your response.
Mary Ziesak and Cathy Picone
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