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International Law and Interventionism in the 'New World Order'. From Iraq to Yugoslavia

Selected papers from Madrid International Conference "Interventionism against International Law: From Iraq to Yugoslavia. Recoursing to economic sanctions and war in the New World Order"


Table of contents

INTRODUCTION: Arab Cause Solidarity Committee

Denis J. Halliday

Riyadh al-Qaysi

Abdullah Mutawi

Ashraf al-Bayoumi

Hans Köchler

Peter Malanczuk

Emilia Horta Herrera

Esperanza Orihuela Calatayud

Boris Krivokapic


Carlos Varea


Economic sanctions on the people of Iraq:
First degree murder or manslaughter?

Denis J. Halliday
Former UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq, UN assistant secretary general, visiting Professor at the Pennsylvania Swarthmore College ­US­; Ireland

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, friends I am particularly honoured to be speaking at this the inaugural session of this conference. I am also somewhat nervous. Not because I am new to public speaking, but because I am a layman surrounded by distinguished international jurists. It is like being in the surf with sharks circling just beyond the waves. However, falling back on the concept that certain bliss accompanies ignorance ­I will briefly speak to the issue of United Nations economic sanctions on the people of Iraq as a clear case of genocide­ a crime against humanity. I will also touch on the incompatibility of such sanctions with the spirit of the United Nations Charter and similar instruments of international law requiring, as a result, the establishment of some form of oversight in respect of the output of the Security Council.

During my visit to Paris in January of this year [1999], to speak publicly about the terrible impact of United Nations economic sanctions on the people of Iraq, I used the term genocide for the first time. I did so at a briefing for the press corps to describe a catastrophic situation that I had come to consider nothing less than genocidal. And it was picked up by some journalists and used for headlines in the Paris newspapers and then similarly by one or two international wire services. Thereafter, during that visit, I was made to feel by some that I had crossed an invisible line of impropriety! I was criticized by a few for using the term in regard to the impact of economic sanctions themselves. It seemed also that it was deemed inappropriate particularly in respect of Iraq. Since then I have observed that the term genocide offends many in western media and establishment circles when it is used to describe the killing of others in an environment for which we are ultimately responsible, such as in Iraq. To be even handed, I must admit I was praised by others for having said what I said. Perhaps for most, the term genocide is too emotive and too intimate to our democratic obligation to accept responsibility for even the most disagreeable actions undertaken by our respective governments. For others, it was no more than an overdue recognition of the crimes against humanity on going.

I was certainly not the first to use the term genocide to describe the extensive loss of life in Iraq under present circumstances. Former US Attorney-General Ramsey Clark, the British author Geoff Simons and a number of British Members of Parliament critical of Labour Government sanctions and military policy, have employed the term to convey their perception of the Iraq situation. Since the Spring of this year, the term has been used frequently by the establishment in the UK and the USA together with the mass media to describe the plight of Albanians in Kosovo and the killing of the people of East Timor. The first identification apparently justified NATO aggression and the bypassing of the United Nations, resulting in NATO missile attacks, use of Depleted Uranium shells and targeting of civilian infrastructure. Attacks that apparently served to increase the death rate of Albanian civilians. The latter, resulted in the international community taking action via the Security Council too slowly although in keeping with the national sovereignty provisions of the Charter. Clearly for these deadly situations despite their historical involvement, those in the establishment using the term genocide did not feel in anyway responsible. Only last week, I was reminded of this during a BBC interview. Others commit genocide, we do not.

More recently, in a class I am teaching at Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, we discussed the appropriateness of using of the term genocide to describe the human crisis in Iraq. We reviewed with some care the definition as set out by the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide of 1948. We noted the clear reference to the expression intent as being essential in any determination of genocide. In considering UN Security Council Resolution 687, we did not find intent spelled out in the text of 1991. No one questioned if the justification provided some years ago by the then Ambassador to the UN and now Secretary of State for the deaths of some five hundred thousand Iraqi children implied genocidal intent.

The choice for the class in respect of the consequences of Resolution 687 was one between de jure, or de facto genocide, or as one student suggested, a choice between first degree murder or manslaughter. Thus the title of this piece. The class looked between the lines of the Resolution, but the majority of students gave the original drafters the benefit of the doubt, and likewise those member states that supported and continue to support the imposition of the uniquely comprehensive and devastating economic sanctions that Resolution 687 represents, particularly devastating coming as it did on top of the civilian-targeted bombing and missile attacks by the Gulf War allies. However, some including myself consider that by the deliberate continuation of the UN economic sanctions regime on Iraq, in full knowledge of their deadly impact as frequently reported by the Secretary-General and others, the member states of the Security Council are indeed guilty of intentionally sustaining a regime of genocide.

The information provided by the various organizations of the United Nations system ­FAO, WFP, UNICEF, and WHO­ who have carried out surveys using international experts of infant and child mortality rates in Iraq under economic sanctions ­underlines that we have de facto genocide. They have provided data showing the very significant increase in mortality rates over the years since Resolution 687 was imposed. We have also been given data by WHO showing significant increases in the deaths of adults, particularly amongst the aged in need of sophisticated drugs no long available in Iraq.

We have WHO figures showing extraordinary increase in the incidence of various cancers, including leukemia in children, since the use of depleted uranium by the UK and USA during the Gulf War. We know the sad human cost today in Iraq of unclean water, collapsed electric power generation and failed sanitation systems, as reported initially by the mission of then Under Secretary-General and now President of Finland, Martti Ahtisaari in 1991, and many times since by UNICEF and WHO.

The informally termed Oil-for-Food programme, which as you know is fully funded by Iraq via limited oil sales under UN auspices, was designed to prevent further deterioration, not more than that. The Security Council-approved but heavily constrained importation of limited and basic foodstuffs, medicines and drugs into the country, has done little more than maintain high mortality rates and massive malnutrition as the recent UNICEF report advised. Apart from considerable nutritional shortfalls, including lack of adequate animal proteins within that programme, we have not seen the Security Council allow oil revenues to seriously repair the damage caused by the bombing of civilian infrastructure of 1991, 1996 and as recently as December 1998. By this denial, the Security Council has determined with deliberation to block adequate repair of water, power and sewage systems so critical in the battle to save the lives of countless infants and children. In other words, the Security Council through its member states has knowingly the necessitated that food be consumed alongside foul water, thereby creating a source for water-borne diseases leading to thousands of deaths, particularly of infants and children.

Likewise, adequate hard currency has not been available for re-equipping of hospitals and other health care facilities; and agricultural food production capacity remains starved of essential imported requirements. In short, the Security Council has denied Iraq its right to adequately import and at the same time its right to repair, and rebuild that civilian infrastructure so critical for human well being, indeed for life itself. I speak of civilian infrastructure that was illegally destroyed in breech of the Geneva Conventions and Protocols by the Gulf War allies, in the first place.

The Security Council has in effect illegality twice-over violated international law. Firstly, the targeting of men, women and children ­noncombatants and civilian­ via missile attacks and bombing of civilians and civilian infrastructure in 1991 and thereafter. And secondly, in an even more deadly and sustained manner of warfare, killing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, and adults, by the ongoing regime of comprehensive economic sanctions. An embargo backed up by the massive military presence of the US throughout the Middle East. A military presence not only intimidating to the women and children of Iraq, but equally to many millions of peoples and their governments throughout the Region. Whether one wishes to term economic sanctions no Iraq a form of warfare or not, crimes against humanity or not, the imposition of genocide or not, the sustained imposition of these sanctions constitute the punishment of millions, and the deaths of hundreds of thousands, of innocent human beings. Whatever the terminology, whatever the semantics used, the results are indisputably contrary to the spirit and the word of numerous international legal instruments.

With, or without original intent, the impact of economic sanctions constitutes genocide. Whether it is de jure or de facto genocide, the semantics are irrelevant to those people of Iraq who have seen their children die, their parents die and their own health and the health of most, deteriorate into a state of physical malnutrition, a condition of near national depression and an environment of social collapse.

The question posed in the title of this statement: Does the genocidal impact of economic sanctions on Iraq represent first degree murder as in intent, or manslaughter as in negligence resulting nevertheless in death? I leave to those here more competent that I. However, I would like to address one of the tragedies of the Iraq crisis, over and above the massive loss of life namely, the irreparable damage it has done to the integrity and credibility of the United Nations itself.

By sustaining economic sanctions on Iraq in full knowledge of the deadly consequences, the member states of the Security Council have undermined the very basis of the Organization itself ­the Charter. That is not to deny that the device of economic sanctions is provided for in Chapter 7 of the Charter ­it is. One could query the intentions and goals in the minds of the victors of World War II when these provisions were drafted in 1945, at a time when the infant UN was proportionally more heavily made up of large and powerful than small and weaker member states. Then, as it is today, the concept of economic sanctions, bilateral but also multilateral, is more attractive and viable to the powerful, the larger bully boy states, than to the smaller potential victims.

Regardless, the prolonged and uniquely comprehensive nature of the economic sanctions on Iraq, and economic sanctions regimes imposed elsewhere in the world, have thwarted the very spirit and principles of the United Nations Charter ­the preamble of which calls inter alia for the well being of all humanity. for the health and well being of himself (herself) and of his (her) family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services"; that "motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance"; and that "everyone has the right to education".

In reality, there are numerous international conventions neglected by the continuation of economic sanctions regardless of human cost, not least of which is the Convention on the Rights of the Child. These rights are intentionally denied every time an Iraqi child is without nutritious and plentiful food, a place in which to live decently, adequate medical attention and a good education. A sanctions generation of Deprivation has been created by the Security Council. The denial by the Security Council of the rights of an Iraqi child to have opportunities for the future, to life itself destroys what the United Likewise, prolonged economic sanctions neglect the rights spelled out in Articles 25 and 26 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, providing for individuals " ...the right to a standard of living adequate Nations is mandated to represent and facilitate throughout the world.

Combating this incompatibility between the Charter and instruments of international law with the impact of Security Council Resolution 687, would appear to call for several actions. One might be an initiative by the larger, fully representative and more democratic General Assembly to seek the advice of the International Court of Justice and by so doing, begin to meaningfully assert its oversight function in respect of the work of the powerful yet small and less democratic Security Council. Another might be the establishment of an NGO to watch the impact of Security Council resolutions worldwide and to monitor their incompatibility with the Charter, Universal Declaration of Human rights and other international legal instruments.


In conclusion, the de facto genocidal impact of the regime of economic sanctions on the people of Iraq violates the legal instruments that are fundamental to the credible continuation of the United Nations. The Organization urgently needs the protection of an oversight device or devices in regard to the output of the dangerously out-of-control Security Council. In the meantime, men and women of conscience, with moral posture and integrity will continue to demand the termination of crimes against humanity, indeed genocide, in respect of Iraq.

Executive summary and needed actions

A widely attended international Conference with more than 450 participants under the theme: Interventionism Against International Law: From Iraq to Yugoslavia was held in Madrid on the 20th -21st of November 1999. The Conference was organised by the Spanish Campaign for Lifting the Sanctions on Iraq. Thirty five speakers who are experts and academics in international law, international politics, humanitarian work and media engaged participants in active discussions and commentary following brief presentations of main points of their papers. The inaugural speech entitled Economic Sanctions on the people of Iraq: First Degree Murder or Manslaughter? was given by Denis J. Halliday, former UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Iraq and UN Assistant Secretary-General.

The main topics covered by the Conference included: Economic Sanctions: legal aspects, genocidal impact, a tool of political intervention; Activities of UNSCOM in Iraq; Limitations of Oil-for-Food Programme (986 Security Council ­SC­ resolution), Sanctions Committees role in hindering the programme; SC violations of International Law and UN Charter, legal limits on the power of the Security Council, problems of reform of the UN, US manipulation of the SC; legal aspects of humanitarian intervention; manipulation of the media; sovereignty in the New World Order, selectivity and double standards, globalisation and US domination.

The general consensus and main points of conclusions of the Conference are presented in the following summary.



Military actions against Iraq and Yugoslavia and the imposition of sanctions are directly linked to neo-liberal globalisation and economic domination efforts manifested in new organisations and projects such as World Trade Organisation (WTO), North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Middle East Project, etc. Enforced economic globalisation entails the dismantling of national productive sectors with the ultimate aim of creating safe haven for free enterprise/global corporations that will deprive the vast majority of the populace of their economic and social rights, mainly with the South but also in the North. For the first time this century a single power, the US, is in a position of supremacy and is free to dictate its will as a Global Dictator. In such uni-polar world, the US was able to manipulate the UN and use it to extract pseudo international legitimacy to cover its premeditated aggression against Iraq and to fulfil its goal of direct military occupation of the Gulf region.

The UN was used to impose comprehensive sanctions on Iraq that deprive it from exercising its right to human development. These vicious sanctions target especially the poor, children and elderly as the most vulnerable segments of the society. In other situations, the US found it convenient to exclude the UN and deny its authority by resorting to unilateral action: imposing no-fly zones in Iraq, military actions in Iraq, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Libya, Sudan, etc.

One feature of such New World Order is the deliberate selectivity and double standards used by the lone policeman of the world. Thus, under the pretext of ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction, sanctions are causing hundreds of thousands of children under five to perish, while Israel stockpiles its nuclear, chemical and biological arsenal. Such double standards extend to criteria of democracy used in different situations. It is clear that we are confronting a deliberate coercive well designed new scheme for domination of Third World countries and enforcement of US hegemonic position among industrialised countries in the post Cold War era.



The US attempts to compromise the existing international institutions and in particular principles of general international law are obvious since they constitute key obstacles to the full imposition of the so-called New World Order. Most of these principles are enshrined in the UN Charter, in particular the principles of self-determination, of sovereignty, equality of all states, solving all international disputes by peaceful means, illegality of the use or threat of use of force against the territorial integrity, non-intervention in issues that are within the realm of domestic jurisdiction of states (Articles 1 and 2 of the Charter).

The participants consider recent military actions, as well as economic sanctions, taken by the promoters of the New Order are in flagrant contradiction with the fundamental principles of International Law and expressed their strongest rejection of attempts to promote what has been described as an "emerging new rule of international law" in accordance of which certain states enjoy what they characterise as a right or even a duty to carry out military humanitarian intervention because of actual or alleged human rights violations with recognised boundaries of other states. Such interventions, disguised under the attractive label of humanitarianism, are easily exposed as aggressive acts. States involved in such illicit acts should not be absolved their responsibilities under international law. The Conference drew a clear distinction in regard to actions taken by the international community, e.g.: in the case of the racist apartheid regime in accordance with the core principles of international human rights law and within the provisions of the UN Charter.

The Conference expressed profound dissatisfaction and concern at recent statements by UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, which give direct or indirect support to the Western inspired concept of humanitarian intervention and other statements that endorse new concepts in the field of international law that clearly undermine the key principle of state sovereignty in favor of individual sovereignty thus violating current international judicial order and giving a justification of selective unilateral action. In this regard it was noted that the UN Sub-commission on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights in its resolution 1999/2 of 20 August 1999 expressed "its firmest convictions that the so-called duty or right to carry out humanitarian intervention [...] is judicially totally unfounded under current general international law and [...] cannot be considered as a justification of violations of the principles enshrined in Article 2 of the Charter of the UN".

Thus the Conference refused to accept the proposition that human rights of individuals or minorities may be protected by bombing the territories where they live. Proper means in accordance with the UN Charter and human rights law should only be used to secure all human rights to all individuals in all societies. The Conference totally regrets the violation ­by NATO in the case of Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and by the US and UK in the cases of Iraq and other states­ of international humanitarian law, in particular those contained in the provisions of the Geneva Convention relative to the protection of civilians in a time of war of 12 August 1949. Violators of the provisions of the 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide should be brought to trial to the proper international tribunals.



Starting with Desert Storm in 1991, the US has come to increasingly dominate the SC to promote its interest in an intimidation, coercion, bribery ­as detailed in the memoir of former US State Department Secretary James Baker. This caused many to question the unrepresentative and antidemocratic nature of the SC and to the obvious need for genuine reform. The Conference stressed the fact that SC actions must be consistent with the Charter, and underlined the limitation of power of the SC, which currently acts as its own limit with unrestrained powers. This raises the necessity of legal oversight and balance of powers within the UN system. The International Court of Justice, as the highest judicial body of the UN, should review SC actions according to the Charter and general principles of international law. The act of genocide in Iraq ­a clear violation of the UN Charter­ has been perpetrated by the US dominated SC in the name of the international community, which this points to the need for reforming the SC.



The Conference reviewed the extensive manipulation of news by the global corporate media and the inherent conflict of interests of media establishments that result in an ill-informed and even deceived public with regard to critical issues. The spin placed on events and the new vocabulary of deliberate ambiguity and deception and sometimes the advanced knowledge of events by the media were discussed, and the potency of the media as a weapon of mass deception was emphasised.



The genocidal impact of economic sanctions on Iraq were reviewed, including the horrific infant, child and adult mortality and the wide spread malnutrition directly resulting from prolonged deprivation of adequate nutrition, clean water and proper sanitation. Deliberate destruction by Gulf War allies of key civilian infrastructure and continued hindrance of reconstruction and development in various sectors in Iraq are the key elements in the continuation of genocide. Painful social consequences include domestic discord, high dropout of school children, increase in crime and heavy on social burdens on women.

The oil-for-food programme (986 SC resolution) has done no more than stopping further deterioration. In effect this means sustaining high mortality and widespread malnutrition, without providing the necessary means for reconstruction. Moreover, the oil-for-food programme itself has been prevented from achieving even its limited potential as a result of the obstacles presented by the 661 Sanctions Committee. The 661 Sanctions Committee has consistently delayed approval of some contracts and refused others, particularly those related to infrastructure rehabilitation and the oil production sector. It was noted that such deliberate policies of depriving the Iraqi people from using their own resources shatters claims by the US that they have no quarrels with the Iraqi people but only with their leader. A report issued by General Accounting Office (GAO) of the US Government (GAO/NSIAD-95-116) clearly identifies "[] five basic categories of targets, one of which is population" and, the report continues, "...attacks on targets such as television and radio stations and electric power generation and distribution facilities, would degrade the will of the civilian population".

The Conference was briefed on UNSCOM and its invasive practices, which had damaged UN integrity and compromised Iraqi sovereignty by using spies for purposes beyond its mandate. The Conference noted also the fact that the UN has not applied paragraph 14 of SC resolution 687 concerning the disarmament of the Middle East region from weapons of mass destruction. The legality of economic sanctions on Iraq following withdrawal from Kuwait was questioned, as well the hidden agenda of the US, including its objective to gain control of Iraqi oil to further its influence over European Union. The criminal use of depleted uranium in Iraq, with its subsequent far-reaching environmental implications and the well-documented cause for the spread of cancer and congenital deformations, was also addressed by the Conference.

The Conference learned of continuous and illegal bombing and missile attacks by the US and UK on the no-fly zones of Northern and Southern Iraq, the continuing invasion of Iraq by Turkey ­a member of the NATO­ and the total disregard of the national sovereignty of Iraq through actions to remove the head of the state.



The legality of NATO extensive bombing of civilian targets was questioned and the contradictions of such actions with Charter provisions were expressed. The Conference clearly refused the so-call New Strategic Concept of the NATO adopted in its Washington Summit.

Similar to the case of Iraq, the media blackout and distortions gave a spin to the news to hide facts and to camouflage the true objectives of the US and NATO, which is the fragmentation of Yugoslavia to pave the way for integration within NATO. The so-called humanitarian intervention caused untold harm and deaths to the very people the US and NATO claimed to save. It was stressed again that efforts to protect human rights have to adhere to humanitarian law and the UN Charter.



The Conference called for the following actions:

­Considering the continued sanctions on Iraq as a criminal act of genocide.

­Immediate lifting of sanctions on Iraq and Yugoslavia.

­Cessation of US and UK aggression against Iraq and putting an end to the so-called no-fly zones.

­Full compensations of damages caused by aggression and sanctions imposed against Iraq and Yugoslavia.

­SC resolutions must be fully consistent with the UN Charter.

­Development of mechanism to ensure limits of power and judicial oversight of the Security Council and continued research on these topics.

­Condemnation of the US manipulation of SC decisions and the bypassing of SC and resorting to unilateral use of military and economic power to commit aggression or to enforce sanctions on the countries such as Afghanistan, Sudan and Cuba.

­Exposing the true nature of the so-called humanitarian intervention as a political tool to extend hegemony in the New World Order.

­Persistent efforts towards the removal of weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East, without selectively and including Israel.