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U.N.: Iraq Rep Should Focus on Human Rights
(New York, May 23, 2003) - The new United Nations Special Representative for Iraq should make human rights a central element in rebuilding the country, Human Rights Watch said today.


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"Protecting human rights is essential for successfully rebuilding Iraq. Mr. Vieira de Mello will bring his experience of the top human rights post to this important role."

Kenneth Roth
Executive Director of Human Rights Watch


 
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan has reportedly appointed Sergio Vieira de Mello, currently the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, as his Special Representative for Iraq.

"Mr. Vieira de Mello is a great choice for this post," said Kenneth Roth, executive director of Human Rights Watch. "Protecting human rights is essential for successfully rebuilding Iraq. Mr. Vieira de Mello will bring his experience of the top human rights post to this important role."

Human Rights Watch expressed concern at the impact that Mr. Vieira de Mello's temporary reassignment could have on the U.N. High Commissioner's office. "A temporary replacement will never have the clout that is needed to fill this critical role. It is essential that a vacuum not be left in this important post," Roth said.

The responsibilities of the Special Representative, outlined in the Security Council resolution 1483 of May 22, 2003, will include human rights and humanitarian issues.

Human Rights Watch called on the newly appointed Special Representative to:

Take immediate steps to establish human rights monitoring throughout Iraq. Human rights monitors should be able to report regularly on the human rights situation within the country and make recommendations for remedial action, including long-term institutional reform. The monitors' work would also help to bolster the confidence of the Iraqi public that progress is being made towards human rights improvements.

Press for the establishment of an international commission of experts mandated to make recommendations regarding the type of international justice mechanism best suited to satisfy "the need for accountability for crimes and atrocities committed by the previous Iraqi regime," as affirmed by the Security Council resolution 1483.

Take immediate steps aimed at the collection and preservation of forensic evidence in Iraq and the creation of an agency to register cases of the disappeared and facilitate the certification of death and the recovery of remains.

Monitor, in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other relevant agencies, the situation of refugees and the internally displaced inside Iraq, and provide remedies for abuses they suffer, including when refugees and displaced populations return to their home areas and property.

Make it a top priority to address the threat posed to civilian lives in Iraq by antipersonnel landmines and unexploded ordnance, and encourage coalition forces to provide and disseminate detailed information on the types, numbers, and locations of munitions used in order to facilitate effective warnings to civilians and rapid clearance.

For more information on Human Rights Watch's work in Iraq, please see: http://www.hrw.org/campaigns/iraq

To read Human Rights Watch's letter to the United Nations Security Council on Iraq dated May 13, 2003, please see: http://hrw.org/press/2003/05/unsc051303ltr.htm