Global Policy Forum

ICJ the Last Avenue to


By Deborah Loh

New Straits Times
January 23, 2001

The International Court of Justice might be the last avenue to find an end to the economic sanctions on Iraq, UN Special Envoy to Myanmar, Tan Sri Razali Ismail said.

Razali, who was formerly Malaysia's representative to the UN and president of the UN General Assembly, said only on that platform could the UN's violation of its own laws and principles on human rights be exposed.

"The sanctions on Iraq have never been brought to the ICJ. Doing so could be the final option not just for governments but for civil society by petitioning the court.

"I believe the Malaysian government, being sensitive to the public's feelings, would surely take this matter up to the ICJ if there is enough ground support."

While there was no guarantee the ICJ would lift the sanctions, Razali said it was important to ensure the issue reaches the court. "This is the channel through which people can influence the UN."

He was speaking at a Press conference after chairing a public forum on the effects of sanctions on women and children. It was organised by the Pan-Pacific and Southeast Asia Women's Association of Malaysia (PPSEAWA). Former UN assistant secretary-general Hans Von Sponeck was the speaker.

Von Sponeck said sanction laws in the UN Charter were "clearly subsidiary" to other laws which require the Security Council to "act in accordance with the Charter's principles" that uphold human rights. "This issue of subsidary law has not been raised enough. Some international lawyers have noted this but the Security Council has chosen to ingore them," he said. The question on subsidiary law and the ICJ's role was raised at the forum by Solicitor-General Datuk Heliliah Mohd Yusof.

Von Sponeck praised Malaysia for daring to speak out against the sanctions during its time as a non-permanent member of the Security Council. He urged the Government to further the issue of subsidiary law by rallying other Asean countries around this point, and to initiate discussion at the UN General Assembly.

Von Sponeck, who was also coordinator of the UN humanitarian programme in Baghdad from 1998 to 2000, told of Iraq's suffering people and battered infrastructure since sanctions were imposed 10 years ago.

Unemployment is now at 60 per cent, 21 per cent of children were malnourished, 90 per cent of raw sewerage ended up in rivers and the moratlity rate had increased 160 per cent.

Under the UN's Oil for Food programme, each Iraqi only received US$100 (RM380) per person each year. Billions of dollars worth of supplies are being held back for fear of misuse by the military, when in fact, the sanctions had "reduced Iraq to a third-rate military," Von Sponeck said.

"There is no threat as perceived by the US and Britian. Their demonisation of the Iraqi military is wrong."

While admitting that Iraq does have "a restrictive society", Von Sponeck said the suffering is clearly the result of sanctions. He said more countries were aware of this. Many Americans too, were opposed to their country's abuse of its position in the Security Council. "I believe international pressure from the grassroots will continue to mount and influence the UN."

PPSEAWA patron Datuk Seri Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali said the organisation would present a paper to the Security Council on its opposition to the sanctions. She led a group of women from non-governmental organisations to Iraq last March to get a first-hand account of the situation. Today's forum was part of PPSEAWA's international objective to spread a culture of peace, she said.

More Information on a Turning Point for Iraq
More Information on Sanctions Against Iraq
More Articles on International Justice


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