UN rights expert calls for independent probe into humanitarian crisis in Fallujah

3 May 2004

An expert of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights today wrote to the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) strongly recommending that it establish an independent inquiry into the health situation of the civilian population of Fallujah following allegations that coalition forces might have violated international humanitarian and human rights law.

Paul Hunt, the Commission's Special Rapporteur on the right to health, said according to some reports, 90 per cent of the estimated 750 civilians killed in Fallujah were non-combatants.

His letter lists a number of allegations that have been made against coalition forces, including the use of indiscriminate force, resulting in civilian deaths and casualties; blocking civilians from entering Fallujah's main hospital; preventing medical staff from either working at the hospital or redeploying medical supplies to an improvised health facility; occupying the hospital; and firing upon ambulances.

"These are extremely serious allegations," the Special Rapporteur said. "An independent investigation can establish whether or not they are true. If they are not true, the coalition should not be falsely accused. If they are true, steps must be taken to ensure these grave breaches of international law do not recur. Lives are at stake - and so is the coalition's credibility," he said.

"An independent enquiry is especially important because recent events in Fallujah have been shielded from international scrutiny," Mr. Hunt added. "Access to the city has been severely restricted - and the extreme insecurity has meant that very few independent monitors have been able to report on events."


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