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Humanitarian justification for Iraq war bogus: report.

LONDON, Jan. 26 Kyodo

As the prospects of finding weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in Iraq fade, the United States and Britain cannot justify their military intervention in Iraq on humanitarian grounds, nongovernmental Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Monday at the launch of its World Report 2004.

HRW Executive Director Kenneth Roth said the March 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq could not be justified as humanitarian in motive because there was no ongoing or imminent mass killings by President Saddam Hussein's government.

He said that as the prospects of finding WMD diminished -- reinforced by the recent comments of U.S weapons inspector David Kay who said he does not think there are any WMD in Iraq -- U.S. President George W. Bush's administration was increasingly using the humanitarian argument to justify its actions.

''The Bush administration cannot justify the war in Iraq as a humanitarian intervention, and neither can Tony Blair,'' Roth said in a statement in reference to the American president and the British prime minister.

''Saddam Hussein's atrocities should certainly be punished, and his worst atrocities, such as the 1988 genocide against the Kurds, would have justified humanitarian intervention then. But such interventions should be reserved for stopping an imminent or ongoing slaughter. They shouldn't be used belatedly, to address atrocities that were ignored in the past.''

Roth, launching U.S.-based HRW's World Report in London for the first time, said the U.S.-led action could not be justified as humanitarian on a number of other counts.

He said that other options could have been pursued before taking military action, such as formally indicting or prosecuting Saddam, in order to destabilize him internally.

Roth also argued that if the war was driven by humanitarian concerns, then the coalition would have sent more troops into Iraq in order to cope with the postwar situation and policing.

He maintained that while the coalition did try and minimize civilian casualties when attacking fixed, pre-selected targets, the bombing of leadership targets had a high failure rate and led to many innocent casualties.

Roth said that ordinary Iraqis were better off now that Saddam had been removed, but he said that this factor alone did not make the intervention in itself humanitarian.

He said that other recent military interventions in Africa, such as in the Democratic Republic of Congo, Liberia and Cote d'Ivoire, could be justified as humanitarian. But he feared that future interventions could be undermined by the Iraq war.

''If its (Iraq war) defenders continue to try to justify it as humanitarian when it was not, they risk undermining an institution (humanitarian intervention) that, despite all odds, has managed to maintain its viability in this new century as a tool for rescuing people from slaughter,'' he said.

The 407-page World Report 2004: Human rights and Armed Conflict includes 15 essays on a variety of subjects related to war and human rights, from Africa to Afghanistan.
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Publication:Asian Political News
Date:Feb 2, 2004
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