The resolution gives a proposed U.N. Special Representative for Iraq only vague responsibilities for human rights and humanitarian issues and fails to address many important questions, including justice for past abuses and the need to preserve forensic and documentary evidence.
"As more and more mass graves come to light, it's appalling that the Security Council would remain silent on past abuses in Iraq," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Ensuring justice for these crimes will be essential to breaking with impunity in Iraq and restoring the rule of law."
As a first step, Human Rights Watch urged the Security Council to appoint a commission of experts, as it did for the former Yugoslavia, to recommend the best option for an internationally-led justice process. In the meantime, Human Rights Watch called for urgent steps to protect mass graves and archives to preserve crucial evidence for any future trials. This evidence is also necessary to ensure that families can establish the fate of their loved ones.
Human Rights Watch also urged the Security Council to establish a human rights monitoring presence inside Iraq under the authority of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights.
"The Security Council has put human rights monitors on the ground in many other post-conflict situations," said Roth. "As violence and instability continue in Iraq, monitors could help deter abuses and make recommendations for longer-term reforms."
Human Rights Watch criticized the resolution for ignoring the silent threat that landmines and unexploded ordnance pose to Iraq's people. This concern has been compounded by the recent use of cluster munitions by U.S. and U.K. ground and air forces; new laying of landmines by Iraqi forces; and very large numbers of abandoned Iraqi weapons caches.
Human Rights Watch called on the Security Council to give high priority to mine action activities (survey, marking, risk education and clearance). Coalition forces should also provide detailed information on the types, numbers and locations of munitions used, in order to facilitate effective warnings to civilians and rapid clearance.
To read Human Rights Watch's previous letter to the United Nations Security Council dated May 13, 2003, please see: http://hrw.org/press/2003/05/unsc051303ltr.htm