Experts to investigate human rights consequences of war in Iraq

News and Press Release
Originally published
CWS Executive Director John McCullough Part of CESR-Led Mission's Steering Council
NEW YORK, Jan. 23 [AScribe Newswire] -- A team of prominent research experts is in Baghdad as part of an emergency mission to assess the humanitarian and human rights consequences of war on Iraq.

Led by the New York-based Center for Economic and Social Rights [CESR], the mission is investigating the impact military strikes will have on food security and public health for Iraq's 26 million people. It is the first comprehensive mission to incorporate the latest field data within the international law framework governing war.

The research team will focus on the consequences of attacking the civilian infrastructure and disabling basic life support systems for the population. The research team will review field reports, interview United Nations and Iraqi government officials responsible for electricity, water and sanitation, public health, trade, and food security and visit hospitals and clinics, public markets, and food distribution sites. The team will also interview families in their homes to assess coping strategies. Videographers and photographers will supplement the findings with images of the human face of Iraq. Based on their findings the team will develop four concise reports as follows:

-- Consequences of War will assess the full costs of a potential war, especially to vulnerable civilians, with a focus on damage to essential public services due to the targeting of the economic and civilian infrastructure.

-- Alternatives to War will assess the benefits the population of a peaceful resolution to the crisis, accompanied by lifting of sanctions and restoration of the economy and support systems.

-- Humanitarian Law will summarize the legal responsibility of warring parties to protect civilian life and property during armed conflict, for the purpose of establishing accountability for any war crimes resulting from the planned attack

-- Public Health will establish a baseline assessment of current conditions in order to assess any violations committed in the event of war and to estimate post-war and/or post-sanctions rehabilitation needs for the health system and other public sectors.

"We believe it is imperative that the full human consequences of war be made crystal clear," said CESR Executive Director, Roger Normand who has recently led fact-finding missions to Iraq, Israel, Palestine and Afghanistan. "The American people have the right to know whether they will be supporting - politically and financially - the commission of war crimes in Iraq. "

Normand noted that in a confidential report, UN humanitarian agencies have estimated that war could result in 500,000 Iraqi casualties. Current UN planning anticipates providing emergency aid only to about half of those in need. Up to 10 million people in and around Baghdad is expected to be inaccessible to outside assistance while being encircled and besieged during the initial phase of a US led invasion.

The Center for Economic and Social Rights is a leader in promoting a human rights approach to redressing economic injustice. CESR methodology combines: 1] scientific research to document violations, 2] legal analysis to establish accountability of decision-makers, 3] public advocacy to mobilize support for policy change; 4] partnership with local and international organizations to build popular constituencies for human rights, and 5] education to raise public awareness of human rights solutions to poverty and inequality. CESR is accredited to the Economic and Social Council of the UN.

An overview with bios of participants follows:


The Center for Economic and Social Rights [CESR] is organizing and heading a Research Mission as part of its Emergency Campaign on Iraq. The Research team will visit south/center Iraq between 19-31 January, 2003. The Team will have two objectives:

[1] Assess the humanitarian consequences of war, including the potential effects of military strikes on infrastructure, food security and health and nutrition.

[2] Establish a baseline for current capacity and determine necessary inputs to rehabilitate the health system to pre- Gulf war and sanctions level.

The research team will focus on the consequences of attacking the civilian infrastructure and disabling basic life support systems for the population. The research team will review field reports, interview United Nations and Iraqi government officials responsible for electricity, water and sanitation, public health, trade, and food security and visit hospitals and clinics, public markets, and food distribution sites. The team will also interview families in their homes to assess coping strategies.

The Research team will be accompanied by camera crews and photographers to document the Mission and present an objective picture of Iraq to the international public, with an emphasis on portraying the humanity of Iraqi people.


Roger Michael Normand [Coordinator] is co-founder and Executive Director of the Center for Economic and Social Rights [CESR], where he oversees policy, program and outreach, and directs projects in the Middle East and Central Asia. In recent years he has led human rights fact-finding missions to Iraq, Israel and Palestine, and Afghanistan. He is also an adjunct professor at the Columbia School of International and Public Affairs. In 1991, he helped organize the International Study Team missions to Iraq in 1991, the first independent investigations of the impact of war and sanctions on Iraq's civilian population. In 1988-90 he worked with Catholic Relief Services and Human Rights Watch-Asia on human rights and refugee issues in Southeast Asia. A graduate of Harvard Law School and Harvard Divinity School, he has written on human rights and refugee issues for a wide range of publications.

Philip Alston is Professor of Law and Director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, at New York University Law School, and External Professor of International Law, European University Institute, Florence. He is President of the Board of Directors of the Center for Economic and Social Rights and Editor-in-Chief of the European Journal of International Law. He chaired the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights from 1991 to 1998, and was elected to chair the Meeting of Chairpersons of United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies in 1990, 1993, and 1997-98. He was appointed as an Independent Expert by the UN Secretary-General, at the request of the General Assembly, to report on measures to ensure the long-term effectiveness of the UN human rights treaty bodies [reports submitted in 1989, 1993, and 1997]. He is currently Special Advisor to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and a member of the consultative group for the [ILO-initiated] World Commission on the Social Dimensions of Globalization.

John Leonard McCullough is Executive Director of Church World Service since September 2000. Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Rev. McCullough has extensive global experience in ministry, mission, and humanitarian assistance. He summarizes his personal mission as being one of "Preparing leaders for church and society, serving the needs of humanity, and working for global justice." Before assuming the CWS position, he was first Vice-Chair of CWSW and was a veteran member of CWSW Unit Committee. He has administered program of scholarships that awarded assistance to more than 700 students around the world and introduced numerous new mission initiatives for the General Board of Global Ministries including: Missioners of Hope, Volunteers for Africa and Conference Committees on Mission Personnel.

Hans von Sponeck is a 36-year veteran of the United Nations and former Assistant Secretary General. He joined the UN Development Program in 1968, and worked in Ghana, Turkey, Botswana, Pakistan and India, before becoming Director of European Affairs. He was appointed the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq in October 1998, overseeing roughly 500 international staff, as well as 1,000 Iraqi workers. His responsibilities included directing all UN operations in country, managing the distribution of goods under the "Oil-for-Food" program, and verifying Iraqi compliance with that program. Mr. von Sponeck resigned this position in February 2000 in protest of current international policy toward Iraq, including sanctions. Since that time he has made numerous visits around the world, especially in Europe, to brief governments and parliaments about resolving the Iraq crisis. He has degrees from the University of Tubingen and the University of Bonn in modern European history and from the Louisiana State University and Washington State University in anthropology and sociology.

Laurance Neall Nathan is Executive Director of the Center for Conflict Resolution at the University of Cape Town. His special area of interest is demilitarisation in South Africa, and Africa in general. Laurie has been actively involved in the anti-apartheid struggle since attending the University of Cape Town [UCT] in the late 1970s where he completed business science and law degrees, followed by a Masters in Philosophy at Bradford University's School of Peace Studies. He was President of the Students' Representative Council at UCT and Secretary General of the non-racial National Union of South Africa Students. He was also a founding member and for two years the national organizer of the End Conscription Campaign [ECC] which opposed the system of compulsory military service for white men. In 1988, the ECC was banned and Laurie spent two years evading arrest; he later learnt that he had been one of those targeted for assassination by the SADF hit-squad.


Peter Pellett [Coordinator] is an Emeritus Professor of Nutrition at University of Massachusetts in Amherst. He has conducted numerous health assessments throughout the Middle East, and was team leader of four FAO missions to Iraq. He has also done research in Iraq on behalf of WHO and UNICEF.

Elisabeth Ryden Benjamin is founder and supervising attorney of the New York Legal Aid Society's Health Law Unit. She has conducted health and human rights assessments to Iraq for the Harvard Study Team and International Study Team missions, and is interested in international human rights from the perspective of US accountability.

Charles Clements, a public health physician, is CEO and President of WaterWorks, an American NGO that assists communities resolve problems with potable water and sanitation in Mexico and the U.S. He has extensive experience dealing with conflict and humanitarian issues and is former President of Physicians for Human Rights [PHR] and prior to that was Director of Human Rights Education of the Unitarian Universalist Service Committee [UUSC].

Ramzi Raymond Kysia is a peace activist and writer whose essays have appeared in numerous publications, including the Houston Chronicle, San Diego Union-Tribune, and Counterpunch Magazine. Ramzi has worked in Iraq for six months with EPIC, Voices in the Wilderness and the National Network to End the War against Iraq.

Michael McCally is a public health physician and Professor in the Department of Public Health and Preventive Medicine at the Oregon Health and Sciences University, Portland, Oregon where he is director of the Center on Environmental Health Policy. Dr. McCally is President-elect of Physicians for Social Responsibility and was Treasurer of International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War when it won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985.

Michael VanRooyen, is Associate Professor and Vice Chairman of Department of Emergency Medicine and Director of Center for International Emergency, Disaster & Refugee Studies at Johns Hopkins University.

Ronald Jay Waldman is a Professor of Clinical Public Health at the Mailman School of Public Health of Columbia University. He has extensive experience working in complex emergencies in Somalia, Rwanda, Bosnia, Albania, Congo, and Afghanistan. Dr. Waldman is the immediate past Chairman of the International Health Section of the American Public Health Association.

Sarah Leah Sally Whitson is a corporate lawyer and chair of the Government Affairs Committee of the New York Arab-American Anti-Discrimination Committee. She participated in the Harvard Study Team and International Study Team assessment missions to Iraq.


Jan Dragin,; 781-925-1526
Carol Fouke,; 212-870-2252
David Lerner, 212-260-5000, 917-612-5657;