> News Release Issued by the International Secretariat of Amnesty
> International
> AI INDEX: MDE 14/075/2003     8 April 2003
> Iraq: Civilians under fire
> Amnesty International is deeply concerned about the mounting toll of
> civilian casualties in Iraq and the reported use of cluster bombs by US
> forces in heavily populated areas. Despite repeated assurances from US
> and UK authorities that they would do everything possible to protect the
> Iraqi people, since 20 March hundreds of civilians have reportedly been
> killed. Some have been victims of cluster bombs; some have died in
> attacks in disputed circumstances. The attacks in the vicinity of
> civilian targets continue and are likely to escalate as fighting moves
> into Baghdad.
> "We urge all the warring parties to make the safety of the Iraqi
> civilians a top priority," Amnesty International said.
> "The attack at al-Hilla's hospital on 1 April was an example of
> indiscriminate killing of civilians and a grave violation of
> international humanitarian law," Amnesty International emphasized.
> The bodies of the men, women and children -- both dead and alive --
> brought to the hospital were punctured with shards of shrapnel from
> cluster bombs. Two lorry-loads of dead civilians, including women in
> flowered dresses, were seen outside the hospital.
> Injured survivors reported how the explosives fell "like grapes" from the
> sky, and how bomblets bounced through the windows and doors of their
> homes before exploding.
> Both Amnesty International and Landmine Action, a UK-based
> non-governmental organization, have confirmed that pictures from al-Hilla
> show unexploded BLU97 -- a cluster submunition, and that this is the same
> air-dropped weapon that caused severe humanitarian problems in
> Afghanistan and Kosovo in the past.
> "The devastating consequences of using cluster bombs in civilian areas
> are utterly predictable. If, as accounts suggest, US forces dropped
> cluster bombs in residential areas of al-Hilla, even if they were
> directed at military targets, this would be a grave breach of
> international humanitarian law," Amnesty International said. "An
> independent and thorough investigation must be held and those found
> responsible for any violations of the laws of war should be brought to
> justice. The US and UK authorities should order an immediate halt to the
> further use of cluster bombs. "
> Iraqi civilians have also been placed at greater risk of being killed or
> injured by US and UK forces as a result of tactics used by the Iraqi
> military that violate international humanitarian law, such as perfidious
> attacks. Amnesty International is also concerned about reports that Iraq
> has been locating military forces and weaponry in close proximity to
> civilians in order to shield them from attack.
> "International humanitarian law requires both defenders and attackers to
> take measures necessary to protect civilians," the organization said.
> "All parties to the conflict in Iraq have a responsibility to ensure that
> the humanitarian needs of the civilian population are fully met. We call
> on all parties to the conflict to facilitate access and the operations of
> humanitarian organizations, without delay," Amnesty International
> continued.
> Amnesty International calls for:
> - an immediate moratorium on the use of cluster bombs by US/UK forces and
> on other inherently indiscriminate weapons;
> - an immediate end to unlawful tactics by Iraqi forces that endanger
> civilians;
> - prompt and impartial investigations into civilian deaths, and the use
> of the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission to investigate
> incidents of alleged serious violations of international humanitarian
> law.
> ****************************************************************
> To download the report "Iraq: Civilians under fire" please go to
> http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfssbb0havb/
> For more information, download Amnesty International's previous press
> releases on the use of cluster bombs:
> http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfstbb0havb/
> http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfsubb0havb/
> http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfsvbb0havb/
> To see an interview with Amnesty International's military expert, go to
> http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfswbb0havb/
> To see an interview with Secretary General Irene Khan on cluster bombs go
> to http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfsxbb0havb/
> For more information on the Iraq Crisis go to
> http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfsybb0havb/
> and for latest news releases and 24 hour media contacts go to
> http://click.topica.com/maaaZcdaaXfszbb0havb/