The FIDH condemns the complicit silence of the International community and calls for an international inquiry into war crimes in Iraq

30/04/2004
Report
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American forces, responding to the heinous murder of four American civilians on 31 March 2004 in the town of Fallujah, launched a vast military campaign to “crush” the “insurgent movements” in the town, while, for his part, the American General Mark Kimmet, second in command of American army operations in Iraq, promised an “overwhelming” response. On April 6, Operation “Vigilant Resolve” was deployed. It mobilized 2000 American marines, two Iraqi armed security force battalions, tanks, armoured vehicles, snipers, gunships and F16 aircraft.

According to available information, throughout the three week siege, the armed forces have blockaded exits from the town to prevent men aged between 18 and 49 from leaving. Mortar rounds were fired at civilian housing. A 900 kilo bomb was dropped on a residential district and another was aimed at a religious institution killing forty civilians. Snipers shot at passers- by. A number of civilians who were attempting to escape from the shooting, some of whom carried white flags, were directly targeted. Clearly marked ambulances were also targeted and, consequently,ambulance drivers were killed.

Military operations were run from medical facilities. This meant that the Fallujah hospital was closed, the patients were thrown out and the hospital was occupied by "coalition" forces to be used as a strategic base. The humanitarian organizations on the ground deplore that the siege and the occupation of the hospital have severely obstructed the access of the injured to medical services which has led to the loss of a number of lives.

The first report of this operation made by the Fallujah hospital director, Rafie Al Issawi, records 600 Iraqi casualties, half of whom are reportedly women, children and old people, and some 1200 seriously injured. Allegedly, 80 American soldiers were killed. The U.S. Marines Commander, lieutenant-colonel Bennan Byrne, openly denied these figures and claimed that 95% of the Iraqi victims were "legitimate targets", i.e. "men of military age". Almost a third of the population fled the town to take refuge in neighbouring towns and camps.

The FIDH condemns such operations which constitute an excessive act of retaliation clearly directed against the civilian population. The disproportionate use of force against unarmed civilians, the execution of a number of them, the destruction of houses, targeted shootings at medical staff and facilities and obstructing access to medical care are all serious violations of the IV Geneva Convention relative to the Protection of Civilian Persons in Time of War, and the perpetrators of such offences are, at the very least, guilty of war crimes.

Further, the FIDH deplores the feeble response from the international community, which on the whole has remained silent. The UN Secretary General’s call for restraint and the few communiqués issued by the IRCC, despite its duty of discretion, are not enough. The FIDH is particularly concerned about the silence of the European Union, the States serving on the Security Council, the UN Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights High Commissioner, the High Contracting Parties to the IV Geneva Convention, who are the only fora and bodies Iraqi victims can turn to.

While the FIDH welcomes the work done by the UN on the mechanisms for transferring power to the Iraqis, this work cannot be performed without regard to the serious violations of international law which the UN has a mandate to protect, without losing all legitimacy to act in the country.

Therefore, the FIDH urgently calls upon the international community to launch, without delay, an independent international inquiry into the crimes perpetrated during the siege on the town of Fallujah and to bring those responsible before an independent and impartial court.

Furthermore, the FIDH calls upon the Swiss government to summon the High Contracting Parties to the IV Geneva Convention to consider remedies to the serious violations of international humanitarian law committed in Iraq since the beginning of military operations in Iraq.

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