Vienna, 6 September 1999/P/K/16600c-is
IRAQ / ARAB LEAGUE / SANCTIONS
In a statement issued today, the President of the International Progress Organization (I.P.O.), Dr. Hans Koechler, welcomed the announcement of Mr. Ahmed Ben Helli, Assistant Secretary-General of the Arab League, of the possible reactivation of the seven-member Arab League committee concerned with lobbying around the world in order to lift the unjust economic sanctions imposed on Iraq. The League's Assistant Secretary-General said that the suffering of the Iraqi people "exceeds all limits and has drastically affected every Iraqi life, as well as the unity and security of the country."
While welcoming the Arab League's evaluation of the tragic situation caused by the comprehensive economic sanctions imposed upon the people of Iraq since nine (!) years, the President of the I.P.O. expressed the hope that the member states of the Arab League will make the first step and will collectively cease to enforce the embargo in their dealings with Iraq. The Arab states could follow the noble example of the heads of state of the member states of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) who, in their resolution adopted at last year's summit at Ouagadougou, had decided to ignore the sanctions imposed on the Libyan Jamahiriya. Their decision was one of the decisive factors in bringing about the effective termination of the sanctions against Libya.
Such decisive action of the Arab League in the case of the sanctions against Iraq would undoubtedly change the international situation and would give credibility to the Arab League's earlier statements on the devastating effects of the sanctions on the people of Iraq. It would also make more successful the international lobbying effort to be taken up by the seven member committee.
The President of the I.P.O. recalled the opinion of leading experts of international law worldwide that the comprehensive economic sanctions imposed on Iraq – being enforced even eight years after the restoration of Kuwaiti sovereignty and in spite of Iraq's abidance by Security Council resolutions – are a serious violation of the basic rules (ius cogens) of international law, in particular of the Fourth Geneva Convention, and constitute, because of the kind of collective punishment of the civilian population and the magnitude of suffering caused, a crime against humanity as defined in the Charter of the Nürnberg Tribunal, and a crime of genocide as defined in the International Convention of 1948. Because they are in violation of the most basic legal principles, the sanctions are legally invalid. No member state of the Arab League is obliged to implement them any further.
The lifting of the sanctions by member states of the Arab League would be a just and balanced decision in conformity with the purposes of the Arab League as set out in Art. II of its Charter which specifically mentions the League's "general concern with the affairs and interests of the Arab countries." Such a courageous step would clarify the raison d'être of the Arab League in the present international constellation and would help the Arab nation to regain the freedom of action it has gradually lost as a result of the imperialist policy of "divide and rule" applied by outside powers that have a strategic interest to control the oil-rich Middle East and to keep its peoples and states in a state of permanent economic and military weakness and political disunity.
The President of the I.P.O. expressed the hope that far-sighted Arab leaders will make the first step in regard to the lifting of the sanctions so that the international community will become fully aware of the inhuman nature of this kind of treatment imposed on the Arab people of Iraq.