by UN Human Rights Commission Concerned about Civilian Deaths –
(April 9, 2003) – 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 in Iraq. The High Commissioner’s fears have become even more relevant as fighting has engulfed Baghdad. “The impact on civilians must never be underestimated, for it is truly terrible in a way that words simply cannot convey,” 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 centers 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 killed some dozen journalists 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,” he said. “There are inescapable obligations on the parties to the conflict”, he said. “Human rights and international humanitarian law cannot be put on hold”.