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Toll of murdered hostages in Iraq peaks at 25

Toll of murdered hostages in Iraq peaks at 25

Brussels, 8 September 2004 (ICFTU Online): The murder of twelve Nepalese and three Turkish migrant workers has prompted the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) to condemn the wave of hostage taking befalling post- war Iraq. Killed in the course of a mere 4 days, these murders take the toll of foreigners kidnapped and subsequently killed in Iraq since March 2003 to 25.

According to information held by the ICFTU, the Nepalese migrant workers, initially believing that they were to work in Jordan, were taken hostage having been smuggled into Iraq to work as cooks and cleaners for a Jordanian firm.

Many more migrant workers have been taken hostage in Iraq including 7 truck drivers from Kenya, India and Egypt, all kidnapped close to Falluja in the space of just one day in July 2004. Released on 1st September 2004 when their employers Kuwait and Gulf Link Transport Company paid a ransom of US$ 500,000, the outcome for these hostages contrasts with the many Iraqis kidnapped for ransom, mostly in Baghdad, whose fate often remains unknown, underlined the ICFTU.

Iraq is still to ratify International Labour Organisation (ILO) Convention 87 on the right to freedom of association and ILO Conventions 21, 66, 97 and 143 on migrant workers. The international trade union movement is eager to see progress on this front, and underlines that one way for the interim Iraqi government to progress towards democracy is to make respect for human rights, especially workers' rights, its priority.

Yesterday's (7th September 2004) kidnapping of two Italian women aid workers, captured in central Iraq alongside to two Iraqis in broad daylight, once again put the safety of foreign and Iraqi workers under the spotlight.

"There is clearly a general lack of protection of workers [in Iraq], particularly of migrant workers," said the ICFTU in its letter to Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. "Iraq has an obligation to protect its workers, whether they be migrants or Iraqis".

"Never has the need been so great as it is now, especially before the climate of safety for Iraqi and migrant workers deteriorates any further," said the world's largest trade union organisation.

The ICFTU represents 148 million workers in 234 affiliated organisations in 152 countries and territories. The ICFTU is also a member of Global Unions: http://www.global-unions.org

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