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HR/4738-IK/433
3 May 2004

SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON RIGHT TO HEALTH CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY INTO HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN FALLUJA

03/05/2004
Press Release
HR/4738
IK/433


SPECIAL RAPPORTEUR ON RIGHT TO HEALTH CALLS FOR INDEPENDENT ENQUIRY


INTO HUMANITARIAN CRISIS IN FALLUJA


(Reissued as received.)


GENEVA, 3 May (UN Information Service) –- The Special Rapporteur on the right to health of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, Paul Hunt, has today written to the Coalition Provisional Authority strongly recommending that it establish an independent and impartial enquiry into the health situation of the civilian population of Falluja, in the light of the military operations conducted by the Coalition forces since the beginning of April.


The Special Rapporteur stated that while reliable information is difficult to obtain, credible allegations persist that the Coalition forces have been guilty of serious breaches of international humanitarian and human rights law in Falluja in recent weeks.


According to some reports, of the estimated 750 civilian deaths, 90 per cent were non-combatants.


In his letter, the Special Rapporteur lists a number of allegations that have been made against the Coalition forces:


-- The use of indiscriminate force, resulting in civilian deaths and casualties;


-- Blocking civilians from entering Falluja’s main hospital;


-- Preventing medical staff from either working at the hospital or redeploying medical supplies to an improvised health facility;


-- Occupying the hospital; and


-- Firing upon ambulances.


“These are extremely serious allegations”, the Special Rapporteur said.  “An independent investigation can establish whether or not they are true.  If they are not true, the Coalition should not be falsely accused.  If they are true, steps must be taken to ensure these grave breaches of international law do not recur.  Lives are at stake -- and so is the Coalition’s credibility”, he said.


“An independent enquiry is especially important because recent events in Falluja have been shielded from international scrutiny”, he added.  “Access to the city has been severely restricted -- and the extreme insecurity has meant that very few independent monitors have been able to report on events”.


The Special Rapporteur recalled that in his 2002 Report to the Security Council on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict(document S/2002/1300), Secretary-General Kofi Annan confirms that civilians, not combatants, are the main casualties of conflicts.  The report emphasizes the crucial importance of humanitarian access for civilians caught up on armed conflict.  “Governments”, it said, “should not subordinate the basic rights of civilians in response to perceived security threats”.


“The Secretary-General’s excellent report makes the vital point that the effective protection of civilians provides the foundation for peace and reconciliation”, the Special Rapporteur noted.  “Respect for human rights -- including the right to health -- promotes the peaceful reconstruction of Iraq.”


The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights to help States, and others, promote and protect the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health.


For further information on the mandate of the Special Rapporteur and copies of available reports, please consult the Web site of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: http://www.unhchr.ch/html/menu2/7/b/mhealth.htm.


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For information media. Not an official record.