UNITED NATIONS -- The human rights situation in Iraq is worsening and the repression of civil and political rights continues unabated, a U.N. investigator reported to the General Assembly.
"The prevailing regime in Iraq has effectively eliminated the civil rights to life, liberty and physical integrity and the freedoms of thought, expression, association and assembly," Max van der Stoel, the special investigator on Iraq for the Commission on Human Rights, said Wednesday.Iraqi President Saddam Hussein exercises executive and legislative power, with judges and courts essentially answerable to him, and "the mere suggestion that someone is not a supporter of the president carries the prospect of the death penalty," he said.
Van der Stoel also accused the Iraqi government of failing to fully use a U.N. humanitarian relief program to help ordinary Iraqis.
The report paints a grim picture of life in Iraq between April and Sept. 20: indiscriminate bombing of civilian settlements and arbitrary killings, arbitrary arrest and detention of suspected traitors and criminals, and the bulldozing of hundreds of homes of opponents.
Van der Stoel, a former Dutch foreign minister, expressed regret that the Iraqi government has refused to allow him to visit the country since January 1992, has not replied to any of his communications, and has refused to accept the stationing of U.N. human rights monitors in the country.
In the past, Iraq has accused van der Stoel of being a "dishonest observer" who obtained his information from U.S., British and Israeli sources in addition to "traitors and agents," a reference to Iraqi opposition groups in exile.
The General Assembly panel that deals with human rights was to review the report Wednesday.
Van der Stoel said Iraq remains the country with the highest number of disappearances reported to the Commission on Human Rights. Disappearances continue to occur, "especially among members of minority groups," he said.
He also said he continued to receive allegations of summary and arbitrary executions, citing the death by firing squad of at least 21 people from the southern city of Basra who had reportedly been arrested in March on suspicion of participating in demonstrations.
In Geneva, meanwhile, Iraq's foreign minister said Wednesday that the country cannot accept any move to suspend rather than lift U.N. sanctions against it.
"It's better for all parties concerned to adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Security Council resolutions," Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf said in Geneva.
Under the resolutions imposing sanctions after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait, sanctions are to be lifted after U.N. weapons inspectors determine that Iraq's weapons of mass destruction have been eliminated.
"Nothing in Iraq has anything to do with prohibited weapons," al-Sahhaf said, insisting Iraq has implemented the resolutions.
U.N. weapons inspectors left Iraq in December as the United States and Britain launched airstrikes, and the Iraqi government has barred them from returning.
The Security Council has been deeply divided since then about how to address concerns about weapons of mass destruction and the human impact of sanctions. China, Russia and France have sought a more lenient policy than the United States and Britain.