Friday 14.10.2005, CET 22:44

Swiss urged to intervene over abuses in Iraq


October 14, 2005 9:48 PM


Ziegler says food is being used
as a "weapon of war" in Iraq

The United Nations special rapporteur on
the right to food has called on Switzerland to condemn
"flagrant" human-rights violations by coalition forces
in Iraq.
Jean Ziegler says civilian populations
are being denied access to food and water in clear
breach of the Geneva




Bern faces pressure to act over abuses in


"I have formally asked Bern, as custodian of
the Geneva Conventions, to intervene in order to denounce and
put an end to violations of the first and second protocols,"
Ziegler told swissinfo. "I think the Swiss government must
react."Ziegler said he had yet to receive an answer
but added that he was confident Swiss Foreign Minister
Micheline Calmy-Rey would respond."From my experience
as a special rapporteur, I know that she is determined to
ensure the Geneva Conventions are respected around the world,"
he said.The Swiss foreign ministry said it would
respond to Ziegler's communication but had yet to receive
"Weapon of war"
Speaking at a press conference in Geneva on
Friday, Ziegler said he had conclusive evidence that food was
being used as "a weapon of war" both by coalition forces and
by the insurgents."Given that insurgents frequently
use civilian populations as human shields, the strategy of
coalition forces for military assaults on cities has followed
a pattern of... encouraging the civilian population to flee
before the attack by cutting off their food and water
supplies," he explained.The former Swiss
parliamentarian said that while he understood the military
rationale behind the strategy, it was prohibited under
international human rights and humanitarian law.He
said he had received reports that food deliveries were
restricted to the town of Tal Afar by Iraqi and coalition
forces prior to an assault in September. Water supplies were
also cut off, though Ziegler admitted it was not clear who was
responsible.He said the coalition was also failing to
ensure adequate supplies of food and water for civilians
forced to flee to camps outside cities.Ziegler says he
intends to raise the issue of violations in Iraq before the UN
General Assembly on October 27.A spokesman for the
United States military in Baghdad dismissed the criticism as
untrue."Any accusations of coalition forces refusing
the basic needs of the citizens of Iraq are completely false,"
Lieutenant-Colonel Steve Boylan told The Associated
Worldwide hunger
The UN special rapporteur, who was speaking
ahead of Sunday's World Food Day, also painted a bleak picture
of hunger around the world.He said it was shocking
that hunger was actually increasing despite pledges by nations
to halve it by 2015 as part of the Millennium Development
Goals.According to a UN report, the number of gravely
undernourished men, women and children rose in 2004 by ten
million to 852 million. Ziegler highlighted the
deteriorating situation in Africa where food and famine crises
had hit Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Sudan, Somalia, Chad,
Zimbabwe, Mauritania and Ethiopia. Effective
humanitarian aid, notably food and water, also needed to reach
survivors of the earthquake in northern Pakistan and India as
soon as possible, he said. He called on governments to
give more, saying both the World Food Programme (WFP) and UN
High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) were facing funding
shortfalls of $219 million (SFr282 million) and $181.5 million
respectively."Last year military spending by the 191
UN member countries for the first time exceeded $1 trillion.
At the same time funding for organisations like the UNHCR and
WFP, which keep millions alive daily, was slashed. This is an
absurdity," said Ziegler.swissinfo, Adam Beaumont in