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HR On Front Line In Iraq: Call For NZ Action

HUMAN RIGHTS ON THE FRONT LINE IN IRAQ: CALL FOR NZ ACTION

Amnesty International has called on the New Zealand Government to work for the plight of the people of Iraq and surrounding countries to be put firmly on the UN Security Council's agenda during a special open session next week.

Following a call by Amnesty for the UN Security Council to hold a serious, substantial and open debate on the likely consequences of war, and a request from South Africa, the Council has agreed to schedule an open meeting on Tuesday 18 February to give an opportunity for non-Council members of the UN to air their views on Iraq.

"As a country often seen as a principled member of the international community, New Zealand has an obligation to do more to ensure that community faces up to the likely consequences of war. The Government must give urgent attention to what has the potential to be a massive human rights disaster for the people of Iraq," said Ced Simpson, Amnesty International's NZ director.

"Discussion on Iraq is dominated by the tactics and timing of weapons inspections and spy planes, but there is little public debate by world leaders about how to prevent civilian casualties, the disruption to food supplies and the fate of those who will be driven from their homes. The New Zealand Government must contribute to a clearer understanding by world leaders that human rights are on the front line in Iraq," said Ced Simpson.

Amnesty International has called on the UN Security Council to discuss: · the potential effect of military action on the human rights of the Iraqi people; · the risk of exacerbating an already bleak critical humanitarian situation; · the risk of creating massive flows of refugees; · the risk of direct attacks on civilians, the use of human shields and of inherently indiscriminate weapons. Amnesty International is also calling on the Security Council to immediately deploy human rights monitors throughout Iraq.

Amnesty International has launched a worldwide petition ( http://www.amnesty.org/go/iraq) addressed to the President of the UN Security Council, urging the Security Council to examine and debate in depth the likely consequences of war on the human rights of civilians before taking any further action.

For further comment/background and interviews:

Ced Simpson 021 371 205 www.amnesty.org.nz

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