Baghdad back into the fold

Andreas Mavrommatis is to visit Baghdad at the beginning of February on a mission which is expected to last three or four days, this being “the first stage of a process of dialogue with the Government of Iraq”.

The previous Assessor of Human Rights was Max van der Stoel, who visited Baghdad in 1991, but who was refused permission for further visits. The Government in Baghdad accused UN personnel of spying, since many of their visits to institutions were followed by US or British bombing raids against targets which were obviously not used for military purposes.

For instance, an Italian film crew shot footage, shown on RTP in Portugal, of US military aircraft strafing agricultural fields after the Gulf War had ended, with the intention to bring starvation to an already suffering population. Such an act constitutes a war crime and hence the reticence by Baghdad to have any more to do with the so-called UN “inspectors”, which Baghdad accused of being spies.

The Greek Cypriot Mavrommatis was appointed by the UNCHR, based in Geneva, in 1999, and since then contact has been established between the parties. Mavrommatis is to investigate serious charges levelled against the Government of Iraq, such as torture of prisoners, arbitrary imprisonment without trial and disappearances. These claims are also made against Baghdad by Amnesty International, which adds that hundreds of people detained as political prisoners are being executed every year in Iraq.

The Iraqi Foreign Minister, Naji Sabri, has signed protocols in Iran re-establishing direct air links between Baghdad and Teheran. Shi’ite Iranian Moslems will be allowed to visit the Holy Sites of Najaf and Kerbala, in Southern Iraq.

The Iraqi Government will answer the charges directly during the visit of Mavrommatis, although the official position of Baghdad is unclear at present.


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