Iraq: The principles of neutrality, independence and impartial humanitarian assistance are threatened

News and Press Release
Originally published
Press release co-signed by Handicap international, Medecins du Monde and Action Against Hunger.
Extremely concerned about the humanitarian threats to the civilian populations in Iraq and the region, the signatory NGOs: Action Against Hunger, Médecins Du Monde and Handicap International are coordinating their action on common principles.

Faced with the creation in Washington of a reconstruction and humanitarian assistance office directed by the military as part of the preparation for war, we assert that the term 'humanitarian' should only describe actions undertaken by independent bodies applying the principles of neutrality and impartiality. It is the duty of those involved in conflict to respect and to apply International Humanitarian Law independent of any other consideration. Humanitarian action cannot be planned or considered as an arm to serve military objectives. It is not the 'after-sales' service of war.

We refuse to subordinate our action on the ground to a military authority involved in the conflict. Those at war are free to set up assistance programmes but these 'civil-military' actions cannot be qualified as humanitarian.

The signatories demand that the right of access to victims be respected under International Law, as well as their capacity to carry out an independent analysis of the needs and to control the aid provided. Limiting NGO's intervention to zones "pacified" by the military changes the nature of humanitarian aid as it imposes a choice between people needing assistance.

Press Contacts:

Action Against Hunger, Sophie Noonan,Tel: 020 7394 6300, Mobile: 07866 546843
Handicap International, Karl Blanchet, Tel: 0870 774 3737, Mobile: 07966 030123
Médecins Du Monde, Karen McColl, Tel: 020 7383 3399, Mobile: 07946 644554