THE IMPACT OF SANCTIONS
13. In recent years, the use of sanctions has increased
dramatically. From 1945 to 1990, the UN Security Council imposed
sanctions on only two occasions, on Rhodesia and South Africa.
Since the end of the Cold War, the UN has imposed sanctions on
no fewer than 12 occasions,
in addition to those sanctions imposed by various regional bodies
and bilateral sanctions.
14. The advantages of sanctions as a foreign policy
tool to the international community were summed up by Mikael Barfod
of ECHO, "I think there are basically three. The first one
is that sanctions are regarded as legitimate and a widely applied
instrument to enforce international law... The second one is that
sanctions are perceived as being a cheap and a low risk alternative
to war. I think the third advantage is that sanctions are politically
tempting instruments for governments to satisfy domestic constituencies
by demonstrating an ability for action, that the government can
This was a point also made by the Government in its memorandum,
"Sanctions have long been an important tool of the UK's foreign
policy and [are] likely to remain so...Sanctions are the only
coercive measure available to the international community, other
than the threat or use of force, to respond to challenges to international
peace and security. If diplomacy fails there needs to be a third
choice between doing nothing and military intervention."
15. The Committee has received a great deal of information
relating to the humanitarian/developmental impact of sanctions.
Mikael Barfod of ECHO set out six areas where he felt sanctions
would frequently result in undesired side effects: " The
first one is the obvious one that economic sanctions hit the wrong
targets in many cases. While the political regime of the target
state in many cases remains largely immune against economic hardship,
the ordinary population is fully exposed to sanctions ... Secondly,
there is the question of what I would call a double embargo. Allocation
of resources [by national governments] discriminates against [certain
ethnic or social groups] in many cases. When external sanctions
are imposed on these states the populations are often punished
once more, undermining the economic basis of alternative political
forces... The third point...is that economic sanctions promote
the creation...of black markets and organised crime and smuggling...
Often these profiteers are closely affiliated with the ruling
elite of the target state. In Serbia, for instance, the black
economy is estimated to represent half of the gross national product...
Fourthly, in political terms, the sanctions can be used to create
a propagandistic rally around the flag effect, victimising any
opposition to the ruling regime...Fifthly, sanctions may economically
and politically destabilise non-target states through cutting
off trade revenues and through stimulating an increased flow of
refugees. Sanction-related losses for Bulgaria, for instance,
have been said to be near 3.5 billion US dollars as a result of
the crisis in Kosovo. Lastly, it is often said that humanitarian
aid could and should mitigate the worst negative effects of economic
sanctions. Governments exposed to sanctions often disallow or
manipulate humanitarian access...In other words, humanitarian
space can become very limited as a result of catch-all sanctions."
16. Concern about the impact of sanctions is particularly
acute in two circumstances comprehensive economic sanction
regimes especially when these have been in place for a
prolonged period of time and regional sanctions regimes,
often imposed by countries which lack the capacity both to implement
the sanctions effectively and to ensure humanitarian exemptions,
and which are often inadequately supervised by the international
This is reflected in the evidence (both written and oral) received
by the Committee which, for the main part, focussed on the cases
of Iraq and Burundi.
Comprehensive Economic Sanctions Iraq
17. Sanctions were imposed on Iraq by UN Security
Council Resolution 661 on 2 August 1990, following the invasion
of Kuwait. The sanctions prohibited the export of all products
from Iraq, and the sale and supply of all products, including
weapons and other military equipment, as well as the transfer
of funds, to Iraq. Exemptions to the sanctions regime were made
for supplies intended strictly for medical purposes and for certain
basic foodstuffs. The Security Council also established a sanctions
committee to monitor the implementation of the sanctions.
18. The sanctions regime imposed on Iraq has in recent
years become an issue of increasing concern to many humanitarian
and other groups. In the months preceding the publication of this
Report, Hans von Sponeck has become the second humanitarian coordinator
to question the sanctions regime and two successive UN reports
have pointed to the humanitarian effects of sanctions on Iraq
over the past nine years.
The Committee therefore felt it appropriate that a large part
of the inquiry should focus on the sanctions regime in place against
Iraq the only comprehensive UN sanctions regime currently
19. Iraq's susceptibility to sanctions was increased
by a number of factors. When sanctions were imposed in 1990, Iraq
had emerged from a long period of conflict dating back to the
start of the Iran-Iraq war in 1980, a fact acknowledged by Dr.
Salah A. Shaikhly, official spokesperson for the Iraqi National
Congress, the umbrella organisation for most Iraqi opposition
groups, "the origins of the present crisis in Iraq dates
from the years of war between Iraq and Iran (1980-1988). The roots
of what today appears to be the total collapse of the economy
lie in that period." Secondly, the impact of the Iran-Iraq
War on Iraq's economy and infrastructure was exacerbated by the
38 day allied bombing campaign that followed Iraq's invasion of
Kuwait. Thirdly, Iraq was heavily dependent on the export of one
product oil for revenue. According to the UN,
it was, therefore, "relatively easy to cut off exports that
provided more than 90 per cent of Iraq's export earnings and 62
per cent of Iraqi GDP. Sanctions therefore had a greater impact
on the Iraqi economy than any other sanctions regime on any other
target state in history. Per capita income halved between 1989
and 1992 and has continued to decline."
Finally, prior to the imposition of sanctions, Iraq was estimated
to have relied on food imports for 70 per cent of its requirements:
in 1989, the total value of Iraqi food imports exceeded $2,000
and whilst, from the start, food and medicines were exempted from
the sanctions regime, it was not until the final agreement by
the UN of the Oil for Food Programme in 1995 that Iraq was provided
with the necessary means to purchase them both at national
and local level.
20. A further factor exacerbating the impact of the
sanctions is the human rights situation in Iraq. In his most recent
report on human rights in Iraq, the UN's Special Rapporteur, Max
van der Stoel,
concluded that "the gravity of the human rights situation
in Iraq had few comparisons in the world since the end of the
Second World War" and that the Iraqi regime had "effectively
eliminated the civil rights to life, liberty, physical integrity,
and the freedoms of thought, expression, association and assembly.
In particular, the report highlighted grave violations of human
rights against the population of the southern marsh area, the
Shiite community and the Kurds. The report went on to conclude
that the Government of Iraq had failed to comply with its obligations
to provide adequate food, clothing, housing and good health and
that "insufficient attention had been paid to allocating
budgetary resources in favour of children to the maximum extent
21. In order to offset the humanitarian impact of
sanctions on Iraq, a number of further measures (in addition to
exemptions for food and medicines) have been implemented. Throughout
1991, the UN expressed concern at the humanitarian situation in
Iraq and proposed various measures which would permit Iraq to
sell limited quantities of oil in return for humanitarian supplies.
The Government of Iraq declined to pursue these and subsequent
initiatives and it was not until May 1996, after extended negotiations
with the UN Secretariat, that Iraq signed a Memorandum of Understanding
setting out detailed arrangements for the implementation of an
"Oil for Food Programme" under UN Security Council Resolution
986 as a "temporary measure to provide for the humanitarian
needs of the Iraqi people."
22. Under the terms of the 986 Resolution, Iraq is
responsible for implementing the programme in the 15 governorates
of the Centre and South of Iraq and the UN, on behalf of the Iraqi
Government, is responsible for implementing the programme in the
three Northern governorates of Dahuk, Sulaymaniyah and Erbil.
Revenues raised through the sale of oil were to be allocated to
food, medicines and humanitarian supplies in the South/Centre
(53 per cent) and North (13 per cent), to the UN Compensation
(30 per cent) to administrative costs (2.2 per cent for administering
the programme; 0.8 per cent for the operation of UNSCOM)
and to the escrow account (1 per cent).
The Programme runs in six month oil exporting phases. The current
phase Phase VII was approved on 17 December 1999,
and a distribution plan for humanitarian goods and services under
the programme was approved (as amended) by the Secretary-General
on 12 January 2000. The total allocation for the humanitarian
programme is $3.522 billion with $1.05 billion earmarked for food.
The other main allocations were $300 million for medicines and
medical equipment; $198 million for water and sanitation; $321
million for electricity and $600 million for oil spare parts.
23. At a meeting on 17 December, the UN Security
Council adopted Resolution 1274, which had been drafted and piloted
through the Security Council by the UK.
Eleven Security Council Members voted for the resolution, with
China, France, Malaysia and the Russian Federation abstaining.
The resolution provides for the establishment of a successor to
UNSCOM (the United Nations Special Commission on Monitoring)
the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission
(UNMOVIC); lifts the ceiling on oil exports allowed for export
under the Oil for Food Programme and provides for additional export
routes. The resolution also proposes measures to streamline sanctions
committee approval procedures (discussed below), providing for
lists of humanitarian items which will no longer require the approval
of the sanctions committee, and directing the sanctions committee
to take a decision on all applications in respect of humanitarian
and essential civilian needs within a target of two working days.
The resolution further encourages member states and international
organisations to provide supplementary humanitarian assistance
to the Iraqi population and requests the Secretary-General to
submit an action plan to the Security Council to outline means
by which 986 funds might be better utilised so as to address the
humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. It further allows for
funds deposited in the escrow account to be used for the purchase
of locally produced goods and to meet the local cost for essential
civilian needs. The resolution finally provides for the suspension
of sanctions on the import and export of civilian goods 120 days
after UNMOVIC and the IAEA
have confirmed that a system of monitoring and verification is
24. In spite of such initiatives as the Oil for Food
Programme, the Committee has heard a great deal of evidence on
the harmful humanitarian impact of sanctions on Iraq. In assessing
this evidence, we have been acutely aware of problems in gathering
information, a point made be Mikael Barfod, "I think the
problem is that it is very difficult to get precise information
on the effects of sanctions on vulnerable groups in most cases.
One reason is that there is simply a lack of statistical data...
that can either be because the regime does not have the data or
it does not want to produce it or even to release it. There is
another factor as well which is something I would call diagnosis
drift ...In other words, you blame everything on sanctions."
Such problems are exacerbated in the case of Iraq, where the leadership
has a vested interest in exaggerating the impact of sanctions
and in downplaying any culpability on its part in impeding the
effective delivery of humanitarian relief. The Committee is
concerned at the lack of reliable information on the humanitarian
impact of sanctions on Iraq. Relief programmes will not be effective
in the absence of such information on the nature and causes of
humanitarian distress in Iraq.
25. Despite this lack of information, Mikael Barfod,
who has visited Iraq on a number of occasions, told the Committee
that he had "tried very hard before this hearing here to
get some hard facts on Iraq which I thought would interest you
and even there it is very difficult to come up with good data.
Some sources claim that 240,000 children under five years have
died from 1990 to 1997 as a result of the sanctions. Other sources
say that 25 per cent of all children under five suffer from malnutrition.
I have also heard figures that a quarter of children are low weight
at birth, that a third of the children are malnourished at birth,
that 41 per cent of the population do not have access to clean
water, which of course affects children more than anyone else
with diarrhoea diseases etc.. These health surveys that I have
seen reveal shortages of pharmaceutical equipment, medical equipment,
medicines, oxygen. Sometimes when you visit hospitals, you cannot
even find an aspirin on any shelf and that obviously has particular
effects on the vulnerable groups."
26. Since the Committee launched its inquiry, two
important reports have been produced assessing the impact of sanctions
on Iraq. In January 1999, the Security Council established three
panels on Iraq. The second panel was charged with "assessing
the current humanitarian situation in Iraq and to make recommendations
regarding measures to improve the humanitarian situation in Iraq."
A summary of the report's findings is included in Box 1 below.
In their submission to this panel on humanitarian issues, the
UNDP noted, "having the largest oil reserves in the world
after Saudi Arabia, Iraq is still to come to terms with the notion
of poverty... in 1987, per capita GNP was still at a comfortable
level of $3,508... The country has experienced a shift from relative
affluence to massive poverty... In 1998, Iraq was ranked 42 out
of the 77 poorest countries...making the country, at least in
terms of income, comparable with such countries as Madagascar
In addition to general indications of the social conditions in
Iraq, the report provides details of specific sectors such as
the psycho-social wellbeing of children, mental health, women
in deprivation, safety at work, child mortality, the disabled,
the elderly, education and the plight of internally displaced
Box 1: The Report of the Second Panel of Inquiry
Situation prior to 1990
Health: According to WHO,
prior to 1991, health care reached 97 per cent of the urban population
and 78 per cent of rural residents. A major reduction in infant
mortality took place between 1960 and 1990. Over ninety per cent
of the population had access to an abundant quantity of safe drinking
water. Iraq relied on food imports for two thirds of its requirements.
Education: According to
UNICEF, in 1989, the combined primary and secondary enrollment
ratio stood at 75 per cent.
Power: In 1990, there
were 126 power stations generating 8,903 mw. Oil exports accounted
for 60 per cent of GDP and 95 per cent of foreign currency earnings.
In 1989, Iraq was producing 2.8 million barrels per day.
Situation after the imposition of sanctions:
It is estimated that, as a result of the war and
sanctions, Iraq's GDP fell by nearly two thirds in 1991, due to
an 85 per cent decline in oil production. Per capita income fell
from $3,416 to $1,500 in 1991 and has since decreased to less
than $1,036 (and has been estimated to be as low as $450 in 1995).
Meanwhile, average shop prices for essential commodities stood
at 850 times the July 1990 level.
Health: Maternal and under-five
mortality has more than doubled. UNFPA and the ICRC believe that
as many as 70 per cent of women are suffering from anaemia. The
dietary energy supplement had fallen from 3.120 to 1.093 kilo
calories per capita per day by 1994-95. Low weight babies rose
from 4 per cent in 1990 to around a quarter of registered births
in 1997, mainly due to maternal malnutrition. A nutritional status
survey conducted in 1997 determined that almost the whole young
child population was affected by a shift in their nutritional
status towards malnutrition. Potable water is currently 50 per
cent of the 1990 level in urban areas and 33 per cent in rural
areas. The functional capacity of the health care system has been
degraded by shortages of water and power supply, lack of transportation
and the collapse of telecommunications.
Education: School enrollment
for all ages has declined to 53 per cent. According to UNESCO,
in Central and Southern Iraq 83 per cent of school buildings need
Power: Power generation
has fallen to 3,500 mw. Power shortages have worsened to up to
six hours a day since July 1998.
27. Secondly, in August 1999, a report on child and
maternal mortality conducted by UNICEF and the Iraqi Ministry
of Health revealed that under-five mortality had more than doubled
from 56 deaths per 1,000 live births (1984-89) to 131 (1994-99).
Infant mortality defined as the death of children in their
first year increased from 47 per 1,000 live births to
108 per 1,000 live births. UNICEF estimated that, if the substantial
reductions in child mortality achieved throughout Iraq in the
1980s had continued into the 1990s, there would have been half
a million fewer deaths of children under five in the country as
a whole in the eight year period from 1991 to 1998. In addition
to the quantitative measures of declining living standards and
infrastructure, the Committee has also heard evidence on the qualitative
impact of sanctions on Iraq. Save the Children argued that humanitarian
assistance should "go beyond the narrowly defined and should
include the right to education, development and an adequate standard
28. A number of witnesses also expressed concern
at the long-term impact of sanctions. The sanctions regime in
place against Iraq is unprecedented in terms of longevity and
its comprehensive nature. Hans von Sponeck, the UN humanitarian
coordinator, told the Committee that it was not just nine years
of sanctions that had taken a toll on Iraq, but that these nine
years were preceded by ten years of conflict, such that Iraqis
were now experiencing a second decade of a totally "non-typical"
life, which had had its impact. The long term impact of sanctions
was not going to be easily reversed and would not be possible
to correct through humanitarian exemptions alone. Of particular
concern were the effects of sanctions on infrastructure and on
governance and social institutions as a whole.
29. The report of the second UN panel on humanitarian
issues in Iraq (see Box 1 above) describes a "massive deterioration
in infrastructure", a state of affairs summarised by Friendship
Across Frontiers, "the early bombing of 1991 has contributed
to severe deterioration of the quality of sanitation, mainly due
to the unavailability of spare parts, scarcity of trained technicians
[and lack of training]... As a result, water-related diseases,
particularly among children are escalating." Disruption in
transport due to the poor condition of roads and vehicles had
played a major part in placing cheap products beyond the reach
of the city dweller, "Power generation has been disrupted
since January 1991 and what the Iraqi engineers manage to cannibalise
in machine parts falls far short of sustaining an adequate service.
It is common to experience 6-8 hours a day without power in many
parts of Iraq."
30. One problem is that many of the items required
to rehabilitate infrastructure will have a dual use. Save the
Children stated, "There has been an attempt to map the water
supply [in Iraq] and one of the needs that was paramount was water
testing equipment... field test water quality equipment would
be extremely difficult if not impossible to pass through the Sanctions
Committee because in fact it essentially tests for the chemical
constituents of water and the biological aspects and in fact it
has a biological incubator built into it. I can imagine the Sanctions
Committee would immediately reject this as an item that could
be imported into Iraq and yet it does serve a very important humanitarian
need at this time. That is one example of a dual-purpose humanitarian
The role of sanctions committees in processing humanitarian exemptions
to sanctions regimes is discussed in greater detail below.
31. The impact of sanctions on governance and social
institutions were also described to the Committee, "Official
pay is miserably inadequate, forcing most to supplement their
income on bribery and corruption right across the establishment.
Petty crime and home insecurity were practically unknown prior
to sanctions...regrettably prostitution, which is socially unacceptable,
has been allowed in by sanctions."
Of particular concern to others was the erosion of the professional
classes who were being replaced by a new class of "fixers,
manipulators, profiteers, people who simply take advantage of
the circumstances." This did not auger well for tomorrow's
social structure in Iraq. Even Iraqi opposition groups, whilst
cautioning against lifting sanctions in place against Iraq, accepted
that sanctions were hurting the Iraqi people, "A teacher
does not earn more than 7,000 dinars and he has to supplement
his income by working as a taxi driver after work. At present,
there are 21,000 vacancies for primary school teachers."
32. The UN panel concluded that "the gravity
of the humanitarian situation of the Iraqi people is indisputable
and cannot be overstated."
Despite concerns about accurate information, there can be no doubt
that conditions inside Iraq have declined appreciably since 1990.
Evidence suggests that Iraqis are lacking essential goods and
services such as potable water, nutrition and healthcare as well
as longer term requirements such as education and social stability.
33. Whilst few, including the Government, would disagree
that the humanitarian situation in Iraq has deteriorated since
sanctions were imposed in 1990, the Committee has heard differences
of opinion as to the underlying cause(s). Whilst some witnesses
argued that sanctions were responsible for the plight of the Iraqi
people "[sanctions on Iraq] are, in their present
form, ethically untenable because they are hitting the weakest
and most vulnerable within society"
others disagreed. Jeremy Carver, Partner and Head of
International Law at Clifford Chance, argued that "It is
not the imposition or maintenance of international sanctions,
but the policies of the Iraqi government which are the primary
cause of this suffering. The Iraqi regime has cynically exploited
sanctions: both to justify its neglect of its own population and
as a tool to solicit external support for its reconstructed ambitions.
A government which delights in showing foreign parliamentarians
suffering infants, when its warehouses are overflowing with food
and medicines undistributed for years, surely reveals itself,
save to the gullible."
Representatives from Iraqi opposition groups agreed, questioning
the extent to which the humanitarian impact of sanctions was the
responsibility of the sanctions themselves or that of the Iraqi
Government, "The sanctions have had an effect but they are
the result of the behaviour of the regime. After 60 or 90 days
at most the regime had the opportunity to remove sanctions if
the international community's will had been accepted by Iraq and
was implemented. Iraq has dragged its feet by denying the Iraqi
population a better life in economic, political and even social
terms. At the same time, it has challenged the international community
and the UN resolutions." Whilst they acknowledged that "sanctions
as a whole are hurting people", they argued that "they
are absolutely necessary to keep pressure on the regime."
The solution lay in maintaining sanctions, albeit with improved
exemption mechanisms, "We should bring education, transportation
and the environment into the resolution. That is the solution,
not the total removal of sanctions."
34. The Government agreed, "when sanctions were
originally imposed on Iraq, the general consensus in the Council
was that these need last only a matter of months...the reason
they have gone on so long has been Iraqi reluctance to comply."
Similarly, despite the appalling humanitarian situation in Iraq,
the Committee has heard evidence that scarce resources continue
to be plundered by the Iraqi leadership. The US National Security
adviser, Samuel R. Berger, recently noted that "since the
end of the Gulf War, Saddam has built 48 grand palaces, complete
with gold-plated faucets and man-made lakes and waterfalls. Five
months ago, Iraqi officials inaugurated Saddamiat all Tharthar,
a lakeside resort for high government officials that contains
stadiums, an amusement park, hospitals, parks, and new homes at
a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars. Top military officials
are provided with extra monthly food rations, a Mercedes and stipends
in the thousands of dollars, while most Iraqis are forced to live
on less than $3.50 a month."
35. In particular, the Committee has heard evidence
that Baghdad has failed to distribute food and medicine. Edward
Chaplin, Head, Middle East Department, FCO, said, "There
are... rather startling anomalies in the way that, for example,
Iraq exports food to Syria in significant quantities, while claiming
that its people do not have enough to eat...they have reduced
the amount of the calorific value of the food basket but put in
large sums of money for the import of bank-note counting machines
and telecommunications equipment, tens of millions of dollars
for those items, but less than before going on the food basket...
And then there is the problem of distribution, even if the stuff
does get into the country... over half the medical supplies which
have been supplied under this programme, worth $275 million, are
still sitting in warehouses.... no-one is debating the overall
picture, but one can, I think, certainly point to the Iraqi regime
as being ultimately responsible for that."
Similarly, other witnesses have pointed to the stark comparison
between Northern Iraq (Iraqi Kurdistan), where the UN and other
humanitarian agencies have assumed responsibility for the provision
of food and medicine and Central/Southern Iraq where Saddam Hussein
remains in control.
36. These claims, in turn, have been rebutted by
NGOs who have pointed to UN reports that have variously attributed
the discrepancies between the North and South/Centre to: the large
amount of international aid pumped into northern Iraq at the end
of the war; a higher per capita contribution being directed towards
Northern Iraq than towards the South/Centre from the humanitarian
programme; the enhanced economic activity stemming from trade
legal and illegal between Northern Iraq and Turkey;
and the absence of a cash component in Southern/Central Iraq which
had reduced flexibility in the implementation of the Oil for Food
Similarly, allegations that Iraq had been "stockpiling"
food and medicines were ascribed to a UN recommendation that Iraq
maintain a 5-10 per cent buffer stock for emergencies
and were exacerbated by a lack of transport, bulky equipment and
a failure by some suppliers to indicate how to test supplies.
37. One point made by a number of witnesses was that,
in light of the impact of sanctions on Iraqi society, it is extremely
unlikely that comprehensive economic sanctions would ever be imposed
again. Ambassador Robert Fowler, chair of the Sanctions Committee
on Angola, explained, "the enthusiasm for comprehensive sanctions
has been waning for some time. I think... that barring a set of
circumstances which I cannot at the moment foresee, it is unlikely
that the Security Council will enact pervasive sanctions against
Claude Bruderlein suggested that "the confidence of states
and public opinion in UN sanctions...is at a record low...Recognition
of the shortfalls of the UN sanctions regime against Iraq...forced
most of the protagonists to focus their attention on the general
issue of targeting sanctions in other fora such as the UN General
Assembly and the sanctions committees."
COMPREHENSIVE ECONOMIC SANCTIONS AGAINST IRAQ
38. There is a clear consensus that the humanitarian
and developmental situation in Iraq has deteriorated seriously
since the imposition of comprehensive economic sanctions. Whilst
details are often difficult to come by or to verify, even those
who wish to maintain these sanctions accept that children, the
ill, the vulnerable in Iraqi society are suffering. It is as obvious
that Saddam Hussein and his ruling elite continue to enjoy a privileged
existence. Sanctions have clearly failed to hurt those responsible
for past violations of international law. The deterioration of
infrastructure, the limited supply of food, the absence of drugs
all affect the poor to a disproportionate degree.
39. Not all this humanitarian distress is the
direct result of the sanctions regime. There is a tendency to
blame all such distress on sanctions in the absence of clear evidence.
Moreover, it appears that Saddam Hussein is quite prepared to
manipulate the sanctions regime and the exemptions scheme to his
own ends, even if that involves hurting ordinary Iraqi people.
The responsibility for the plight of the Iraqi people must ultimately
lie with the Iraqi leadership.
40. This does not, however, entirely excuse the
international community from a part in the suffering of Iraqis.
The reasons sanctions were imposed in the first place were precisely
the untrustworthiness of Saddam Hussein, his well documented willingness
to oppress his own people and neighbours, his contempt for humanitarian
law. The international community cannot condemn Saddam Hussein
for such behaviour and then complain that he is not allowing humanitarian
exemptions to relieve suffering. What else could be expected?
A sanctions regime which relies on the good faith of Saddam Hussein
is fundamentally flawed.
41. We do not intend to set out a foreign policy
agenda for our relations with Iraq. It is clear from the resolution
recently presented to the UN by the United Kingdom Government
that there is a desire to relieve the suffering of the Iraqi people.
Whatever the wisdom of the original imposition of sanctions, careful
thought must now be given as to how to move from the current impasse
without giving succour to Saddam Hussein and his friends. Any
move away from comprehensive sanctions should go hand in hand
with measures designed to target the real culprits, not the poor
of Iraq but their leadership. Possibilities include a concerted
attempt to target and either freeze or sequester the assets of
Saddam Hussein and those connected to him, and the indictment
of Saddam Hussein and his close associates as war criminals. To
bring to justice Saddam Hussein is also a humanitarian imperative
and this should be done without delay.
42. We find it difficult, however, to believe
that there will be a case in the future where the UN would be
justified in imposing comprehensive economic sanctions on a country.
In an increasingly interdependent world such sanctions cause significant
suffering. However carefully exemptions are planned, the fact
is that comprehensive economic sanctions only further concentrate
power in the hands of the ruling elite. The UN will lose credibility
if it advocates the rights of the poor whilst at the same time
causing, if only indirectly, their further impoverishment.
Regional Sanctions Regimes
43. A second area of concern in the use of sanctions
is the humanitarian impact of regionally-imposed sanctions. In
the absence of targeted sanctions and, in light of many countries'
lack of capacity and political will to implement and monitor humanitarian
exemptions adequately, a number of NGOs have expressed disquiet
about the use of regional sanctions. This is of particular concern
given that ActionAid and other humanitarian agencies have predicted
an increase in the number of regionally-imposed sanctions regimes,
as states become increasingly frustrated by delays in the UN system.
For example, in the case of Burundi, ActionAid noted that "regional
governments took their own action, perhaps partly in the knowledge
that any potential imposition of UN (or even OAU) sanctions would
be seriously hampered by delay and/or lack of political will."
44. Much of the evidence received by the Committee
on the impact of regional sanctions regimes related to the cases
of Burundi and Sierra Leone. Whilst the debate in the UN and in
developed countries is focussing on the better targeting of sanctions
regimes, developing countries frequently lack the logistical capacity
to impose so-called "smarter sanctions", meaning that,
in the majority of cases, sanctions imposed by regional governments
or organisations are likely to continue to take the form of blunter
comprehensive economic sanctions. ActionAid explained that "smart
sanctions" such as visa restrictions and financial sanctions
an issue that has come to dominate much of the sanctions
debate in the North were simply not an option for those
countries imposing sanctions against Burundi and Sierra Leone.
Save the Children made clear that events in Burundi illustrated
the devastating consequences of a regional economic embargo that
initially did not exempt humanitarian goods.
45. Sanctions were imposed on Burundi by regional
heads of government
shortly after the Arusha Regional Summit in July 1996 in response
to the military coup led by Major Pierre Buyoya. They have since
been lifted (in January 1999) as part of the Arusha peace process.
As Joseph Mullen, from the Institute for Development Policy and
Management at the University of Manchester, noted, Burundi was
particularly susceptible to the impact of sanctions given that
it is a small landlocked economy. Furthermore, sanctions were
imposed in the first instance without any exemptions for humanitarian
supplies and sanctions-busting states were threatened with secondary
sanctions. He noted that these sanctions stood out in modern 'sanctions'
history as being both singularly effective and draconian.
Although food and medicines were eventually exempted from the
scope of the sanctions regime, a number of witnesses have pointed
out shortcomings in the implementation of the sanctions. Save
the Children argued that the humanitarian exemptions eventually
negotiated by the international community "could not stem
the catastrophic decline in social indicators by that time, given
the civil war, the huge military budget, internal displacement,
price enforcement and shortages." Moreover, "a lack
of coordination among authorities enforcing the sanctions led
to delays in food supplies, fuel, medicines, seeds and sanitary
facilities. Clearance facilities were problematic... laying the
system open to personal profiteering and corruption."
A major problem in the sanctions regime seems to have been problems
in clearing dual-use goods such as disposable syringes, fuel for
sterilisation and kerosene for fridges. As a result, it is estimated
that only half of a targeted 190,000 children received vaccinations.
46. Save the Children argued that the international
community should have been constructively critical when humanitarian
exemptions were clearly not being respected. Gregory Salter, who
was commissioned to write a research paper on behalf of ActionAid,
argued that the international community kept relatively quiet
about the sanctions against Burundi until mid-1998, despite discontent
about the sanctions among Western states and humanitarian agencies,
partly for fear of undermining the assertion by the region of
'African solutions to African problems.'
Save the Children went on to argue that the international community
should have helped regional states define and implement targeted
sanctions, such as financial sanctions, travel restrictions and
an arms embargo. Furthermore, the UN and the OAU should have agreed
on a list of humanitarian exemptions with the sanctioning states
prior to the sanctions being implemented. We criticise the
United Nations for not protesting immediately on the imposition
of draconian sanctions against Burundi. The UN has a duty to monitor
regional sanctions regimes and intervene when human rights are
ignored or humanitarian needs neglected. We recommend that such
a mechanism be implemented as soon as possible.
47. Whilst the Government is obviously not responsible
for the imposition of sanctions by regional groups of states of
which it is not a member, the Committee nevertheless notes the
claim of Joseph Mullen that the sanctions imposed on Burundi "received
direct or indirect support from the Commonwealth Secretary-General,
the UN Security Council and the European Union"
all organisations of which the UK is a member. It is
essential that no sanctions regime should be imposed without accompanying
measures to ensure that humanitarian goods and services are exempted
from its provisions.
48. Problems were also encountered in the case of
Sierra Leone which was subject to both regionally imposed sanctions
(by members of ECOWAS) and more limited UN sanctions. UN Sanctions
were imposed by Security Council Resolution 1132 which imposed
an embargo on the import of arms and fuel and placed restrictions
on travel by members of the junta. The resolution also delegated
authority to ECOMOG (the ECOWAS Monitoring Group) to enforce the
sanctions. In the course of the Committee's inquiry into Conflict
Prevention and Post Conflict Reconstruction, a number of witnesses
expressed concern about ECOMOG's overly strict enforcement of
the sanctions regime. ActionAid in its memorandum stated that
"In Sierra Leone, military enforcement of a far stricter
embargo than that justified by Resolution 1132... resulted in
a high level of civilian deaths and destruction."
Phillipa Atkinson and Dr Sarah Collinson explained, in oral evidence,
that "Because of the inability of those responsible to organise
the exemptions mechanism, the exemption mechanism for humanitarian
goods... food aid was held up at the borders of Sierra Leone."
The Humanitarian Coordinator for Sierra Leone in a situation report
of December 1999 stated that "UN and humanitarian agencies
are challenged to maintain even the most basic health and nutrition
services... humanitarian operations inside Sierra Leone... are
now experiencing difficulties in restocking. This is primarily
due to the fact that the procedures for the sanctions exemptions
mechanisms are not in place and thus relief goods exempted from
the embargo... are not moving across the border as expected."
49. The experience of Sierra Leone raises questions
about the delegation of authority to police UN or other sanctions
regimes to regional or sub-regional bodies. The UK, as a leading
member of a number of sanctioning organisations, should ensure
that whenever responsibility for the enforcement of sanctions
is delegated to regional or sub-regional authorities, that those
authorities should respect the provisions of the resolution and
international human rights, including provisions for the exemption
of humanitarian goods and services. If they fail to do so, then
their authority to enforce sanctions should be rescinded. The
Government should not support any sanctions regime UN,
EU or regional that does not make adequate provision for
the exemption of humanitarian goods and services.
50. Regional sanctions were not addressed by the
Government in its review of sanctions policy, a point made by
ActionAid, "There are quite a number of important issues
that the review glosses over or does not address at all. It does
not reflect... the responsibilities of the Security Council when
sanctions are imposed by regional organisations or groups of states,
which is something we may see more of in future."
We recommend that, in its response to this Report, the Government
give an account of its policy towards regional sanctions regimes,
including means by which the Government could provide assistance
to developing countries to build their capacity to design, implement
and monitor regional sanctions regimes in accordance with humanitarian
Other Special Circumstances
51. In the course of its inquiry into the future
of sanctions, the Committee has received a great deal of evidence
on specific groups that are particularly vulnerable to the impact
52. Save the Children argued that children were disproportionately
affected by the humanitarian effects of sanctions stating, "children's
natural vulnerability is at odds with the disproportionate burden
they bear when sanctions are imposed. Children have much less
resistance than other population groups and are less likely to
survive economic austerity, social deprivation, the persistent
shortages of food and medicines incurred under sanctions."
They went so far as to argue that "comprehensive economic
sanctions, when in place over a prolonged period of time, and
certainly in the absence of humanitarian exemptions, clearly violate
legal obligations towards the development and survival of children."
In particular, they pointed to the UN Convention on the Rights
of the Child, the International Covenant on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights and various provisions of the UN Charter which
relate to human rights, arguing that "children of a given
country do not forfeit basic rights just because their leaders
have violated norms related to international peace and security.
In our opinion, both the targeted state and sanctioning countries
are responsible for upholding the rights of the child."
53. In the case of Iraq, the UN committee monitoring
the Convention on the Rights of the Child noted that "The
embargo imposed by the Security Council [on Iraq] has adversely
affected the economy and many aspects of daily life... The Committee
is concerned at the number of children leaving school prematurely
to engage in labour, particularly girls...the Committee notes
with concern that the economic exploitation of children has increased
dramatically... and that an increasing number of children are
leaving school, sometimes at an early age, to work to support
themselves and their families."
54. The Strategic Planning Unit in the Executive
Office of the Secretary-General of the United Nations noted that,
"a careful recent Columbia University epidemiological study,
which did not rely on Iraqi data, shows that more than 200,000
under-five year-old children have died as a consequence of sanctions.
This is far more than the total number of Iraqis killed in the
Gulf War, when the overwhelming majority of casualties were combatants.
It is also greater that the death toll from the atomic strike
on Hiroshima. The primary responsibility for these deaths clearly
lies with the regime. Iraq's deliberately obstructive tactics
meant that humanitarian aid under the Oil-for-Food Programme did
not start reaching those in need until March 1997... But once
it had become clear just how little Saddam Hussein cared about
the sanctions-induced starvation of Iraqi children, some scholars
argued that Council members had to share at least part of the
responsibility for the continued suffering."
The Committee recognises that sanctions, unless carefully targeted,
have the capacity to kill more children than armed warfare.
55. Whilst children are often said to be amongst
the most vulnerable groups to the imposition of sanctions, the
ODI seminar on smarter sanctions has noted that "the evidence
indicates that the mortality rate for infants (under one) can
actually decrease under sanctions, because more attention and
resources are devoted to their care. More at risk may be children
between one and five years of age."
56. A number of witnesses, including Save the Children,
have contrasted the impact of sanctions with the obligations of
the international community under human rights conventions including
the Geneva Conventions, the Convention on Economic, Social and
Cultural Rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
. Claude Bruderlein argued that "since sanctions are imposed
as a substitute for the use of armed force i.e. as a less
violent means to coerce targeted states general principled
humanitarian law should apply a fortiori to the imposition
of sanctions. The Committee agrees with Save the Children that
international human rights instruments provide widely accepted
principles of conduct in international affairs against which decisions
to impose sanctions should be measured and justified.
OTHER VULNERABLE GROUPS
57. The Committee has also heard that often those
with fixed incomes, such as government employees or those in receipt
of state benefits such as pensions, will also be disproportionately
affected by sanctions regimes. The imposition of sanctions, particularly
comprehensive sanctions, can often result in the devaluation of
local currencies. At the same time, the accompanying scarcity
of goods and resources will often lead to prices rising. This
was also an issue raised at the ODI conference on smarter sanctions,
"Civil servants with small wages and limited opportunities
may find it difficult to cope with rising prices and delays in
payments of salaries."
In Iraq, for example, the UNDP has calculated that, whilst the
official exchange rate continued to be ID1 for $3.33, the free
market rate was ID1 for $0.0005. This, according to a situation
analysis made by UNICEF, meant that the average public sector
wage was $3-$5 a month whereas the minimum required income for
a family of five was $100. By contrast, the rural population will
often be at least partially shielded from the humanitarian consequences
of sanctions by increased self-sufficiency.
58. The Committee is also aware that other groups
of the population may well be disproportionately affected by the
effects of sanctions. Such groups would include women, the mentally
and physically disabled, the elderly, and internally displaced
persons and refugees.
59. The Committee is concerned at the disproportionate
impact of sanctions on certain groups in society. These groups
will vary according to the nature of the sanctions imposed and
according to the country concerned. The fact that, in some instances,
infant mortality rates appear to have actually improved underlines
the need for accurate, impartial information gathering on the
impact of sanctions not just on society as a whole but on different
groups within society. The Committee recommends that all sanctions
regimes should be accompanied by regular independent impact assessments.
Sanctioning states and organisations should, as a matter of policy
in the course of resolutions, affirm that vulnerable populations
should be spared the adverse consequences of sanctions.
12 UN Sanctions: How Effective? How Necessary, A Mack
and A Khan, Strategic Planning Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General,
United Nations, April 1999; sanctions were also imposed on Afghanistan
in November 1999. Back
Ev p.1 Back
Ev p.74 Back
Report of the second panel established pursuant to the note by
the president of the Security Council of 30 January 1999 (S/1999/100),
concerning the humanitarian situation in Iraq (S/1999/356); Child
and Maternal Mortality Survey 1999, Preliminary Report, UNICEF/Iraqi
Ministry of Health Back
UN Sanctions: How effective? How Necessary, Andrew Mack and Asif
Khan, Strategic Planning Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General,
United Nations, April 1999, p.12 Back
FAO, 1994, quoted in: Health Conditions of the Population in Iraq
Since the Gulf Crisis, WHO Division of Emergency and Humanitarian
Action, http://www.who.ch/eha Back
Replaced by Andreas Mavommatis of Cyprus in December 1999 Back
Situation of human rights in Iraq, Report by the Special Rapporteur,
Mr. Max van der Stoel, E/CN.4/1999/37, 26 February 1999 Back
Notably UNSCR 706 and UNSCR 712 in August and September 1991 Back
UNSCR Resolution 987, 14 April 1995 Back
Set up under UN Security Council Resolution 687 to pay for "direct
loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion
of natural resources, or injury to foreign Governments, nationals
and corporations, as a result of Iraq's unlawful invasion and
occupation of Kuwait" Back
United Nations Special Commission Back
Hansard, Wednesday 2 February 2000, Col. 623W Back
International Atomic Energy Authority Back
Topics on Social Conditions in Iraq. An Overview Submitted by
the UN system to the Security Council Panel on Humanitarian Affairs,
24 March 1999 Back
Ev p.33 Back
Ev p.155 Back
Ev p.155 Back
Report of the second panel established pursuant to the note by
the president of the Security Council of 30 January 1999 (S/1999/100),
concerning the current humanitarian situation in Iraq, para. 49 Back
Ev p.181 Back
Ev p.129 Back
The Iraqis are Victims of Saddam, Not of the Outside World,
Samuel R. Berger, US National Security Adviser, International
Herald Tribune, October 19 1999 Back
UN Panel on Humanitarian Issues, Paragraph 44. See also: www.scn.org/ccpi/misconceptions.html Back
Kofi Annan commented in June 1998: "The Current stock, consisting
of a 5 to 10 per cent reserve has been designed to cope with emergencies
and has assisted in ensuring the availability of needed items...
WHO has indicated that a more substantial reserve is the only
practical solution to the procurement cycle with a delay of some
four to five months before the start of arrivals [of replacements
for depleted items]." UN Report of the Secretary General
Pursuant to Paragraph Four of Resolution 1143 (1997), S/1998/477,
5 June, paragraph 67, quoted in "Between Iraq and a Hard
Place: A Critique of the British Government's Narrative on UN
Economic Sanctions, Dr. Eric Herring, University of Bristol, September
Ev p.75 Back
Ev p.37 Back
Ev p.38 Back
Sanctions were imposed by: Tanzania, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia,
Zaire, Rwanda, Zambia and Cameroon Back
Ev p.157 Back
Ev p.34 Back
Ev p.161 Back
Ev p.37 Back
Ev p.156 Back
Sixth Report of the International Development Committee, Session
1998-99, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices, HC55-II, p.42 Back
Sixth Report of the International Development Committee, Session
1998-99, Minutes of Evidence and Appendices, HC55-II, Q.151 Back
Leone Humanitarian Situation Report 03-19 December 1997, UN Humanitarian
Coordinator for Sierra Leone, Conakry, Guinea Back
Ev p.33 Back
Ev p.33 Back
Ev p.33 Back
UN Sanctions: How Effective? How Necessary, Andrew Mack and Asif
Khan, Strategic Planning Unit, Executive Office of the Secretary-General,
United Nations, April 1999 Back
Can Sanctions be Smarter?: The Current Debate, Report of a Conference
held in London, 16-17 December 1998, p.26 Back
Can Sanctions be Smarter?: The Current Debate, Report of a Conference
held in London, 16-17 December 1998, p.26 Back