Catholic Groups Join Chorus Against Iraq Embargo

Decade of Sanctions Has Crippled Country, They Say

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GENEVA, MAY 1, 2001 ( A group of Catholic groups, reporting on children´s rights in Iraq, called for an end to a decade of postwar economic sanctions.

The nongovernmental organizations, among them Franciscans International, presented a joint declaration at the 57th session of the U.N. Commission on Human Rights, held here from March 19 to April 27.

The declaration states that Articles 38 and 3 of the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child are being systematically violated, «as a result of more than 10 years of economic sanctions against the people of Iraq.»

Dominican sisters and friars from the United States visited Iraq three years in a row, to see the ravages of the sanctions on the people. At the end of their visit to Iraq last month, the delegation declared in a statement: «During our 10 days in Iraq, we have witnessed the destruction of a land, people and culture, an action more insidious and far-reaching than any in the history of the United Nations.»

The statement continued: «Every aspect of Iraqi society and culture has been adversely affected by the sanctions. In the 1980s, Iraq possessed an effective universal health care system and universal free education, modern telecommunications technology, and adequate power resources. The country had sophisticated water treatment systems that met the needs of most of the population.

«Now, after 10 years, the Iraqi infrastructure can no longer bear the weight of human need. Women of childbearing age and especially children continue to suffer from high levels of malnutrition, resulting in arrested development and diminished capacity to reach their full potential. The air and the water are toxic. Those who suffer most are children, an entire generation who have known nothing but war. … What hope is there as a nation when sanctions deprive them of clean water, adequate nutrition, medical treatment, and education?»

John Paul II has repeatedly called for an end to the sanctions.

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