In response to the start of a large-scale attack on Baghdad, a city of 5 million people, Amnesty International is seeking urgent clarification from the US and UK governments of the measures taken to protect against civilian casualties. The organization cautioned the US and UK that under international humanitarian law, an attack must be cancelled or suspended if it becomes apparent that it is causing disproportionate loss of civilian life.
Amnesty International notes statements by US and UK authorities asserting the intention to minimize civilian casualties, including President George Bush's March 19 statement that "I want Americans and all the world to know that coalition forces will make every effort to spare innocent civilians from harm."
US Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld warned Iraqi civilians on March 20: "Once hostilities begin, stay in your homes and listen to coalition radio stations for instructions on what to do to remain safe and out of the line of fire. Iraqi civilians: Do not go to work. Stay away from military targets and any facilities where Saddam Hussein has moved military assets."
This and other verbal and written warnings from the US to Iraqi civilians do not absolve the US of the obligation to refrain from an attack that would be indiscriminate or disproportionate.