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ACTION ALERT * UNITED FOR PEACE AND JUSTICE
http://www.unitedforpeace.org | 212-868-5545
DEMAND AN INVESTIGATION INTO WHAT HAPPENED IN FALLUJA
We urge you to call the White House (202-456-1111) and your Congressional representatives (Congressional switchboard: 202-225-3121) to demand an investigation into the civilian casualties and humanitarian crisis in Falluja, and to insist that the Red Cross and Red Crescent be allowed to bring relief supplies into the devastated city. We also urge you to write letters to the editor of your local newspaper, making the same demand.
There are many urgent questions that the Bush administration is refusing even to address: How many civilians were killed? How many homes destroyed? How many hospitals, schools, mosques, and other community institutions were destroyed or had major damage done to them? When will the residents of Falluja be allowed to return to their homes?
The information that is emerging about the humanitarian disaster in Falluja, while still sketchy, is extremely disturbing; the two articles that follow give some of this background.
For regular updates on the situation in Iraq, we encourage you to sign up for the email bulletins of the Occupation Watch Center at http://www.occupationwatch.org
U.N. OFFICIAL DENOUNCES FALLUJAH KILLINGS
By Alexander G. Higgins
Associated Press, 11/17/2004
GENEVA -- The United Nations top human rights official on Tuesday denounced the killing of civilians and injured people in Fallujah, saying violators of international humanitarian law must be brought to justice.
Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, spoke in general terms and did not specifically mention insurgents' attacks against hostages or a U.S. military report that it is investigating the videotaped fatal shooting of a wounded man by a U.S. Marine in a mosque in Fallujah.
"There have been a number of reports during the current confrontation alleging violations of the rules of war designed to protect civilians and combatants," Arbour said in a statement.
"All violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law must be investigated and those responsible for breaches - including the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons and the use of human shields - must be brought to justice, be they members of the multinational force or insurgents," Arbour said.
She also complained of she said was a lack of independent access to civilians trapped in Fallujah during the U.S.-led assault and an absence of information on the number of civilians casualties.
A relief convoy of ambulances and supplies was unable to enter Fallujah because of fighting in the city Monday, Red Crescent officials said.
Rana Sidani, a spokeswoman for the International Red Cross, said that no international relief organizations have been able to enter the city since the assault began more than a week ago.
"We are sure that there are civilians in Fallujah," Sidani said. "There are injured without access to medical care."
She said the Red Cross, whose mandate is to protect victims of war, knew there were civilians inside the city because it had been in telephone contact with them.
People who reached safety have told the Red Cross they had to leave civilians behind, Sidani said. "They tried to leave but were prevented from doing so," she said.
Sidani said she didn't know whether the civilians left behind were men or whether there were also women and children.
"This is the problem," she said. "There is nobody (to observe) in there."
"Whether they are women and children or men, they are protected under international humanitarian law. Even if they are men and participating in the conflict and are injured. Once they are injured, they are protected," she said.
Marie Heuze, spokeswoman for U.N. offices in Geneva, said the entire "United Nations is following what's happening in Fallujah with deep concern."
The World Health Organization has provided supplies to the Iraqi Health Ministry, including 50,000 blood bags, officials said. UNICEF will provide drinking water to Fallujah residents who fled to the outskirts.
The U.N. refugee agency and the International Organization for Migration have provided tents and other supplies for the displaced.
Christiane Berthiaume, spokeswoman for the United Nations' World Food Program, said "Iraqi institutions have the capacity to provide food through the public distribution system, which is functioning as required and with which we will assist."
© 2004 Associated Press
800 CIVILIANS FEARED DEAD IN FALLUJAH
by Dahr Jamail
Inter Press Service, 11/16/2004
BAGHDAD -- At least 800 civilians have been killed during the U.S. military siege of Fallujah, a Red Cross official estimates.
Speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of U.S. military reprisal, a high-ranking official with the Red Cross in Baghdad told IPS that "at least 800 civilians" have been killed in Fallujah so far.
His estimate is based on reports from Red Crescent aid workers stationed around the embattled city, from residents within the city and from refugees, he said.
"Several of our Red Cross workers have just returned from Fallujah since the Americans won't let them into the city," he said. "And they said the people they are tending to in the refugee camps set up in the desert outside the city are telling horrible stories of suffering and death inside Fallujah."
The official said that both Red Cross and Iraqi Red Crescent relief teams had asked the U.S. military in Fallujah to take in medical supplies to people trapped in the city, but their repeated requests had been turned down.
A convoy of relief supplies from both relief organisations continues to wait on the outskirts of the city for military permission to enter. They have appealed to the United Nations to intervene on their behalf.
"The Americans close their ears, and that is it," the Red Cross official said. "They won't even let us take supplies into Fallujah General Hospital."
The official estimated that at least 50,000 residents remain trapped within the city. They were too poor to leave, lacked friends or family outside the city and therefore had nowhere to go, or they simply had not had enough time to escape before the siege began, he said.
Aid workers in his organisation have reported that houses of civilians in Kharma, a small city near Fallujah, had been bombed by U.S. warplanes. In one instance a family of five was killed just two days ago, they reported.
"I don't know why the American leaders did not approach the Red Cross and ask us to deal with the families properly before the attacking began," said a Red Cross aid worker, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.
"Suddenly they attacked and people were stuck with no help, no medicine, no food, no supplies," he said. "So those who could, ran for the desert while the rest were trapped in the city."
If the U.S. forces would call a temporary cease-fire "we could get our trucks in and get the civilians left in Fallujah who need medical care, we could get them out," he said.
Mosques have organised massive collections of food and relief supplies for Fallujah residents as they did last April when the city was under attack, but these supplies have not been allowed into the city either.
The Red Cross official said they had received several reports from refugees that the military had dropped cluster bombs in Fallujah, and used a phosphorous weapon that caused severe burns.
The U.S. military claims to have killed 1,200 "insurgents" in Fallujah.
Abdel Khader Janabi, a resistance leader from the city has said that only about 100 among them were fighters.
"Both of them are lying," the Red Cross official said. "While they agree on the 1,200 number, they are both lying about the number of dead fighters." He added that "our estimate of 800 civilians is likely to be too low."
The situation within Fallujah is grim, he said. If help does not reach people soon, "the children who are trapped will most likely die."
He said the Ministry of Health in the U.S.-backed interim Iraqi government had stopped supplying hospitals and clinics in Fallujah two months before the current siege.
"The hospitals do not even have aspirin," he said. "This shows, in my opinion, that they've had a plan to attack for a long time and were trying to weaken the people."
© 2004 IPS
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