Experts to investigate human rights consequences of war in Iraq

News and Press Release
Originally published
For Immediate Release: January 23, 2003
New York, January 23, 2003 - 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.

For interviews and copies of the forthcoming reports, please contact Riptide Communications (212) 260-5000 or

CONTACT: David Lerner (212) 260-5000 / (917) 612-5657