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Urgent statement and appeal by Medical Aid for the Third World
As medical doctors, we cannot remain silent in the face of the enormous suffering of the Iraqi civilian population, brought about by the US-British bombings, invasion and occupation.
We have seen hundreds of civilians, including many children, injured and killed, often by prohibited weapons such as cluster bombs.
We have seen how ambulances and civilian cars have been hit by US troops.
We have experienced how patients and health workers had difficulties passing US military checkpoints and reaching medical facilities.
We now see how the Iraqi civilian hospitals and other medical facilities are plundered and neglected. Many Iraqi health professionals can no longer report to work. Without electricity, safe water supply and the provision of medicines and other medical supplies, many patients are simply left to die.
As health professionals and as human beings, we cannot tolerate this situation. We therefore issue the following statement and appeal:
1. The current humanitarian catastrophe is entirely and solely the responsibility of the US and British authorities, who launched a war of aggression against Iraq in complete violation of international law.
2. In the course of their war, the US and British troops have grossly and repeatedly violated international humanitarian law (Articles 10, 12, 15, 21, 35, 36, 41, 45, 47, 48 and 51of Protocol I additional to the Geneva Conventions).
3. A genuine and lasting solution to the humanitarian catastrophe in Iraq can only be realized after the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of all US and British occupation troops and the full restoration of Iraq's sovereignty on the entire Iraqi territory and on the basis of the Iraqi people's own free will.
4. The US and Great Britain should be made to pay for all direct and indirect damages and suffering their war has inflicted upon the Iraqi people, country and society.
5. In the meantime, as occupying powers, the US and Great Britain have the duty of ensuring the food and medical supplies of the population (Article 55 of the Fourth Geneva Convention). They likewise have the duty of ensuring and maintaining, with the cooperation of national and local authorities, the medical and hospital establishments and services, public health and hygiene in the occupied territory. They must allow medical personnel to carry out their duties. (Article 56 of the Fourth Geneva Convention)
6. We call on the relevant UN agencies, such as the UNFP, Unicef and the WHO, to immediately resume their humanitarian operations in Iraq. A firefighter does not wait until the house has burnt down completely, but takes risks in order to fight the fire and avoid the complete collapse of the building.
7. We support all spontaneous and organized initiatives of the Iraqi population to denounce the US and British occupation and to demand that the US and British authorities fulfill their duties under international humanitarian law.
8. We support each initiative that aims to bring US General Tommy Franks and other US and British military authorities and personnel before a court of justice to make them answer for their violations of international humanitarian law. Upon the request of direct victims of US violations of international humanitarian law, among them patients and medical personnel, we have asked the well-known Belgian human rights lawyer Mr. Jan Fermon to explore the concrete possibilities of charging US General Tommy Franks in a Belgian court for war crimes, on the basis of the Belgian law of universal competence.
Geert Van Moorter, M.D., emergency physician, in Baghdad since 16 March
Colette Moulaert, M.D., pediatrician, in Baghdad from 16 March to 13 April
Harrie Dewitte, M.D., in Baghdad from 6 to 13 April
Claire Geraets, M.D., in Baghdad since 6 April
Bert De Belder, M.D., coordinator of Medical Aid for the Third World in Brussels, Belgium
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