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War not the surest way

dimanche 16 mars 2003 - Contacter l'auteur

War not the surest way

Mary Robinson, Oxfam International
14 March 2003

How has the United States lost so much of the worldwide support and
sympathy which were manifest in the months following the terrible
of 9/11 ? The answer, I believe, lies in people’s concerns at the shift
US policy from giving priority to tracking down al-Qaeda and preventing
acts of terrorism to gearing up for a war on Iraq.

It also arises from the strong sense that decisions about major
international issues are increasingly not the product of multilateral
deliberation but unilateral demand. But perhaps there is something
and more disturbing at the centre of this : a growing trend in mistrust
governments and institutions and their ability to represent the greater
public good.

Citizens have seen governments in the aftermath of 9/11 using the
legitimate aim of fighting terrorism to abuse fundamental rights.

They know that other threats such as the current situation in North
could pose even greater risks to international peace and security yet
date there has been a marked absence of leadership and shared
responsibility for addressing this crisis.

Experience in places like Afghanistan tells them that a commitment to
overthrowing a government does not necessarily mean an equally held
commitment to rebuilding after war. Where does this leave those of us
deeply concerned about the human rights consequences of war in Iraq and
aftermath ?

In concluding his presentation to the UN Security Council on the
in Iraq, US Secretary of State Colin Powell recalled Saddam Hussein’s
appalling human rights record over the past two decades during which he
shown unspeakable cruelty against his own citizens and also against his
neighbours. Secretary Powell reminded the world of the broad range of
rights - civil and political as well as economic, social and cultural -
that have been and continue to be violated on a massive scale in Iraq.

Responsibility for these violations falls squarely on the Iraqi
Saddam Hussein must be held accountable for his actions. But we must
be honest in saying that international efforts to address the human
situation in Iraq have been largely absent over the years, and the
of a decade of economic sanctions imposed by the international
has aggravated greatly the suffering of ordinary Iraqis.

If human rights are to be invoked as one of the reasons for military
action, these issues must be dealt with as well. In the days ahead, we
take the time needed to assess the extent to which war, seen by some at
least in part as a means of addressing past and current human rights
violations, risks instead creating another humanitarian disaster in
and beyond.

We must understand fully how such a conflict could widen the rapidly
deepening gulf between the West and the Islamic world and also
divides across the Atlantic and within Europe itself ; how it might
respect for international law and bolster terrorist organisations ; how
could be seen as international decision making by coercion rather than

We must also ask hard questions about how the human rights situation in
Iraq should be improved after a war.

It would be dangerous to assume that the same level of political
currently dedicated to disarming Iraq would be given to supporting the
Iraqi people in rebuilding after war.

Nor can it be assumed that there would be immediate acceptance and
obedience to the codes and controls that any new ruling authority or
eventually elected government would put in place.

Creating democratic structures is a generational project which must
all sectors of society as well as responsible support from the
international community.

The Security Council must remain central to any decision on Iraq. War,
horrible as it inevitably is, remains as one option, but only in the
gravest of situations, when threats are clear and present, when all
approaches have been fully exhausted, and when the combined will of the
world’s governments and their people stand behind it.

If the Security Council eventually decides on the need for military
intervention, it should keep at the forefront of its deliberations the
humanitarian principle of minimising threats to life and bodily harm of
innocent people who bear no responsibility for the policies of the
government. It must also be committed to more than promises of aid

If instead, it decides that the objectives of disarmament can best be
achieved without military action, it must also recognise that the
of nations has a shared responsibility to devise a regime of
which includes measures to address serious ongoing rights violations in

For all the talk about the universal values which should guide efforts
tackle the most difficult global problems facing the world, there
far too little commitment to acting on these values in practice.

The Iraqi people have been denied their fundamental rights for too
long. A
war to topple Saddam Hussein is not the surest way to bring them

— Mary Robinson, the Honorary President of Oxfam International, is a
former President of Ireland and United Nations High Commissioner for
Rights. She heads up the Ethical Globalisation Initiative.

Mots clés : Guerres-Conflits / Mouvement /
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