HIGH COMMISSIONER FOR HUMAN RIGHTS DEEPLY DISTURBED
BY KILLING OF CIVILIANS AND JOURNALISTS IN IRAQ CONFLICT
(Reissued as received.)
GENEVA, 9 April (UN Information Service) -- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Sergio Vieira de Mello, is deeply disturbed by reports of the increasing number of deaths of civilians, as well as injuries, during the conflict in Iraq. The High Commissioner’s fears for the welfare of civilians, which he has voiced repeatedly, become even more relevant as fighting has now engulfed the largest and most densely populated area, the capital of Baghdad.
"The impact on civilians must never be underestimated, for it is truly terrible in a way that words simply cannot convey. This conflict has reminded us once again of the cruelty of war and that the innocent are invariably its main victims", the High Commissioner said. He cited reports from humanitarian agencies that hospitals can no longer cope with the influx of the wounded; that they are running low on essential medicines; and that some hospitals and health centres have been affected by the damage to water supplies and electricity. "The remarkable job all those who care for victims continue to carry out in the most difficult circumstances -- Iraqi medical staff and volunteers, the International Committee of the Red Cross and non-governmental organizations -- is a courageous and truly inspiring tribute to humanity", he added.
The High Commissioner is also concerned that the fighting has already claimed the lives of some dozen journalists, injured several others, and that media locations have been hit. "The right to freedom of information is dealt a fatal blow whenever a journalist is killed or wounded in the performance of his or her vital role", he said.
Since the beginning of the conflict, the High Commissioner has appealed to all parties to the conflict to observe the principle of making a distinction between combatants and civilians. He said, "The most precious right of all is the right to life. Once life is taken away, the damage is irreparable".
"There are inescapable obligations on the parties to the conflict", he said. "Human rights and international humanitarian law cannot be put on hold."
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