Our verdict on the Chilcot report | Yes Minister... it is a human rights issue | 8 Jul 2016 | Amnesty International UK

Our verdict on the Chilcot report

By Kerry Moscogiuri, our Director of Supporter Campaigning and Communications

Among all that we heard in response to the Chilcot report, it was the heart-breaking press conference called by the families of the servicemen and women killed in Iraq that will stay with me forever. Their pain and dignity was so clear. And this devastating pain has been felt by tens and tens of thousands of Iraqi families since the deadly invasion of Iraq.

As we know, ordinary people bear the tragedy of war. With Chilcot's report unequivocally stating that in March 2003 war was not a 'last resort' and that post-invasion planning was 'wholly inadequate', this conflict has assumed still greater tragic proportions.

The report confirms some of the things we were concerned about at the time. Along with others we warned that there could be 50,000 civilian deaths and that half a million civilians could be injured. We said that two million people could be forced from their homes and some ten million people would need humanitarian assistance.

We wrote to the President of the UN Security Council and UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, asking the Security Council to hold a full, informed and open debate on the human rights and humanitarian consequences of military action in Iraq. We let the UK government and the media know what our concerns were. We were not alone in this. Unfortunately, and devastatingly, our concerns fell on deaf ears.

There was a history to some of this. Governments had failed to address our concerns on human rights in Iraq for decades. On the day that Chilcot's report was published I dug out an old Amnesty briefing document from 1993. It was called ‘Iraq: The world would not listen’. The name says it all. It documented the devastating human rights abuses (mass disappearances, mass executions, torture, widespread repression) that had been unfolding over years. Even then, our calls for human rights monitors and strong UN action were repeatedly rebuffed by countries who were putting their own political interests above human rights.

In the lead-up to war in 2003 human rights groups like ours could hardly miss the irony of prominent pro-war politicians showing a sudden interest in 'Saddam's atrocities'. It seemed to us in 2002-3 - and Chilcot strongly bears this out - that some politicians were then set on invasion at any cost. 'Human rights' were quite transparently used to make a pro-war argument.

Perhaps if there had been as much enthusiasm for pursuing the power of international diplomacy to head off conflict, then maybe the continued suffering in Iraq could have been avoided.

That is what could and should have happened with Iraq across decades: human rights monitors, diplomatic pressure, action.

In undermining the UN over the Iraq invasion, the UK government undermined the body most likely to have achieved a positive change for the people of Iraq. It's not necessarily 'war or nothing'. When campaigning organisations like Amnesty, bodies like the UN and influential governments have worked in unison, real breakthroughs have occurred - Nepal and Burma are two examples. It can be done.

Iraq need not have descended into the maelstrom of bombings and terror from which it now suffers, and it need not have suffered for decades under Saddam while the world looked on indifferently.

In many ways the tragedy of Iraq was a tragedy long foretold. Chilcot's report is the sober story of that tragedy.

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