Iraqi sanctions -- United Nations -- Illegal embargo on air travel

Baghdad/Vienna, 15 November 2000/P/RE/16954c-is

In a message sent to UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, the President of the International Progress Organization, Dr. Hans Koechler, stated that the Security Council sanctions resolutions on Iraq do not include a travel ban. He explained that passenger traffic – whether by land, sea or air – is not covered by the relevant resolutions 661 (1990) and 687 (1991). Those resolutions prohibit the import and export of commercial goods into and out of Iraq but not the traffic of passengers. The embargo on civilian flights in and out of Iraq is totally illegal and constitutes an arbitrary unilateral measure in abuse of Security Council resolutions. In strictly legal terms, the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council has no authority whatsoever to "grant permission" for civilian flights – in the same way as it has no authority to restrict passenger traffic by land or sea, the President of the I.P.O. explained.

Dr. Koechler further stated that the imposition of the so-called "no-fly zones" in the northern and southern regions of Iraq is a unilateral measure by the governments of the United States and the United Kingdom without any relation to United Nations resolutions. The continued attacks by aircraft of those countries constitute a breach of the peace and are acts of aggression which threaten peace and stability in the whole region. The President of the I.P.O. called upon the Secretary-General of the United Nations to make use of his competence under Article 99 of the UN Charter and to bring the matter before the Security Council.

Dr. Koechler further explained that – irrespective of the factual illegality of the flight embargo and the "no-fly zones" – the comprehensive sanctions régime imposed on the people of Iraq since more than 10 years constitutes a violation of the basic rules of jus cogens of general international law. The basic principles of human rights are norms from which no derogation is possible under international law. The collective punishment of the people of Iraq by sanctions that have brought about death, illness and starvation upon millions of Iraqis constitutes a crime against humanity that is being committed in the name of the United Nations Organization. The President of the I.P.O. called upon the UN Secretary-General to exercise his influence and moral authority so that the Security Council will desist from such a policy and lift the sanctions immediately.

The President of the I.P.O. attended last week a meeting of the Follow-up Committee of the Baghdad Conference in the Iraqi capital. More than 120 delegates of non-governmental organizations from all continents called for the immediate lifting of the sanctions against Iraq and discussed strategies to co-ordinate international action to achieve that goal. In his statement before the conference Dr. Koechler referred to the increasing popular resistance in the Arab and Muslim world against a policy of hegemony and collective punishment of entire peoples. In the course of the conference he met with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister Tareq Aziz. The conference was attended by leading figures of international civil society such as Margarita Papandreou (Greece) and the French philosopher Roger Garaudy. In the Final Communiqué the conference participants called for the establishment of a permanent institutional conference with the aim to co-ordinate efforts to preserve the sovereignty of all nations vis-à-vis the global hegemony of only one power.

Together with a number of NGO delegations, the President of the I.P.O. had reached and left Baghdad by air. He emphasized that citizens are free to choose their means of travel in and out of Iraq and that the Sanctions Committee of the Security Council has no legal authority to restrict the freedom of movement whether by land, sea or air.

END/ Iraqi sanctions--United Nations--illegal embargo on air travel/16-11-2000/P/RE/16954c