Intervention in Iraq Not Humanitarian
invasion of Iraq was no humanitarian intervention, Human
Rights Watch says in its annual report released in London Monday.
human rights organization's argument on Iraq marks the keynote essay
in its annual report. The 407-page "World
Report 2004: Human Rights and Armed Conflict" includes
15 reports on varying subjects related to war and human rights.
15 analytical reports cover rights in the context of war in Africa,
Afghanistan and Chechnya. The reports also take up issues such as
executive power in the United States post 9/11, war and law enforcement
rules in the fight against terrorism, children as weapons of war,
cluster munitions, arms suppliers and issues around sexual violence
and women's status.
its 25th year the Human Rights Watch (HRW) has changed its usual
format of presenting country reports by way of an annual report.
Country reports have been posted on its website, but the annual
report is focussed on rights in conflict situations.
highlight of that is clearly Iraq. HRW chose to present the annual
report in London for the first time just two days before scheduled
publication of an inquiry report into the circumstances surrounding
the suicide of British weapons expert Dr. David Kelly last year.
the evidence presented in the inquiry conducted by Judge Lord Hutton,
the report will look beyond the suicide into the circumstances that
led to Britain's decision to join the invasion of Iraq.
justification offered for the invasion of Iraq last year was the
hunt for weapons of mass destruction, HRW executive director Kenneth
Roth said launching the report at The Royal Institute of International
Affairs. "The humanitarian rationale was not foremost, it was
barely mentioned," he said. That rationale is being offered
only now that weapons of mass destruction have not been found, he
said HRW does not have a pacifist position against war. "Our
role in such a situation would be to monitor the positions of both
said HRW had at times even supported military intervention, as in
Rwanda and in Bosnia. "Humanitarian intervention, by which
we mean military intervention, is coming to the fore," he said.
"This would mean an armed force crossing borders to save lives."
But the intervention in Iraq did not meet minimum criteria for such
intervention, Roth said.
intervention in a humanitarian cause would be justified only if
there was imminent fear of mass slaughter, if military intervention
was the last reasonable option, if the humanitarian cause was the
dominant focus of the intervention, if efforts had been made to
maximize compliance with international law, if it was reasonable
to believe that intervention would make things better, and if such
intervention had been sanctioned by the United Nations or at least
a large body of nations," Roth said.
there were nothing like the kind of killings taking place that happened
in 1988 with the genocide against Kurds," Roth said. "Such
interventions should not be used belatedly to address atrocities
that were ignored in the past." Nor had other requirements
been met, he said.
Iraq remains the "hottest" issue involving intervention
and rights, the HRW report points to several other conflict situations
that have received far less media attention. The report includes
analyses of situations along the following lines:
- One report
says the war in Chechnya "which Russian authorities now justify
as their contribution to the global war on terror is being thoroughly
ignored by European and other governments."
- An entry
on Africa's "forgotten wars" analyses efforts by regional
leaders, especially in the recently formed African Union, to take
a more active role in curbing armed conflict and human rights
- Three essays
examine human rights in the wake of war. One says that allied
forces are "losing the peace" in Afghanistan because
they are ceding control outside capital Kabul to brutal warlords.
- In former
Yugoslavia "continuing insecurity, failures of justice and
employment discrimination serve as barriers to return of refugees
and the displaced." As a result ethnic cleansing remains
substantially in place.
- In the
United States "the Bush administration is trying to shield
a broad range of executive actions on national security from the
kind of judicial review that is essential to protecting human
rights." The United States is applying "war rules"
to counter-terrorism to give itself more leeway in denying suspected
terrorists their rights.
- Some reports
look at the way war is conducted, "in particular the growing
international effort to restrict the use of cluster munitions
and the use of child soldiers, as well as to punish states that
sell weapons to known human rights abusers."
- A report
on "resource wars" argues that the role of corrupt governments
is often overlooked in analyses of how precious commodities such
as oil and diamonds provoke rebel groups into launching civil
report notes that the human rights movement has come a long way,
but that many of its gains are threatened "under the cover
of an endless and boundary-less war on terror."
report argues that the human rights movement must demonstrate that
"support for terrorism feeds off repression, injustice, inequality
and lack of opportunity" and that the "global security
is thus enhanced by the success of open societies that foster respect
for the rule of law, promote tolerance, and guarantee people's rights
of free expression and peaceful dissent."
© 2004 Inter Press Service