|Moderated By: Baldur Fjvlnisson -- (Not Moderated) -- Started: 4/8/2003 3:16:40 PM Revision History|
UN, Red Cross Alarmed By Civilian Casualties
Apr 08, 2003
Source: Agence France Presse
International aid agencies yesterday said they were alarmed by the number of civilian casualties in the war in Iraq and their inability to reach many of the wounded. “At the moment in Iraq the biggest public health problem is the level of civilian casualties, there is no question about that,” Iain Simpson, a spokesman for the World Health Organization told journalists here. “The reports from Baghdad, Karbala and Hilla are very worrying indeed,” he said, insisting that aid agencies needed access to Iraq to help the wounded.
Simpson’s comments were echoed by other agencies, including the International Committee of the Red Cross. “What concerns us most in Iraq at the moment are the threats to safety and health of civilians, the two things are closely linked,” Antonella Notari, an ICRC spokeswoman said. “With particular incidents or any observations on the way war is waged, we continue to have talks with the warring parties, but confidentially,” Notari insisted.
Apart from providing aid, the ICRC also has an internationally-recognized role as the guardian of the Geneva Conventions, which protect civilians, wounded combatants and prisoners of war during conflicts. Notari said the ICRC’s staff in Baghdad was now cut off from a hospital at Hilla, south of Baghdad, where they had found 300 wounded. The aid agencies were unable to give an estimate of the number of people killed or wounded during the war. They also voiced concern about the use of cluster bombs.
Notari underlined that the munitions — clusters of small bomblets used against troop concentrations and artillery — were not outlawed. But she warned that armies using them were responsible for clearing any unexploded cluster bombs. “I do notice that British forces confirmed the use of cluster bombs outside of Basra,” Notari said. “In keeping with international humanitarian law we always appeal that they be used well outside places where civilians live and work,” she added.
WHO said it had reports from northern Iraq of 35 injuries caused by unexploded ordinance around the city of Sulaymaniya over the past two weeks. “Unexploded ordinance very often means the bomblets that come from cluster bombs, these are a very serious problem already,” Simpson said. On Tuesday, an AFP correspondent at Hilla saw what seemed to be the parts of cluster bombs peppered over a large area. Hospital officials and witnesses said 48 civilians had died in a bombardment of the area by coalition forces.
Meanwhile, a US Embassy spokesman in Moscow said yesterday the US-led forces will not stop their campaign in Iraq to allow a Russian doctor to evacuate nearly 100 children injured in Baghdad and Basra bombings. The US Embassy in Moscow told Leonid Roshal during talks early yesterday that “the evacuation of children would endanger, at this time, the lives of both the children and Dr. Roshal,” the spokesman said.
Roshal, known in Russia for his work in war zones, has asked for US approval to set up a “green corridor” to evacuate some 95 Iraqi children from hospitals — where medicine is running low — to countries with better resources. While the United States has “great respect for Roshal and shares his concern about Iraqi children,” it has advised the doctor that alleged threats from Iraqi authorities to target humanitarian missions would make the initiative too dangerous, the spokesman said. “The Iraqi authorities have made clear that
Authorities in Washington are, however, continuing discussions on Roshal’s request, the spokesman said, hinting that Roshal could be allowed into Iraq at a later date, after hostilities end. Roshal was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying that “the Americans have not said no” and negotiations in Washington were continuing.
But he warned that if talks dragged on for too long, the imminent assault on Baghdad “would make the organization of a green corridor impossible or unnecessary.” Roshal met Russian President Vladimir Putin late Thursday after returning from talks with ICRC here.
He did not comment on the results of the talks, saying he would hold more discussions with the ICRC, as well as UNICEF and the Council of Europe, next week.
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