Iraq: Update from Amnesty International mission in Iraq

'The US and UK as occupying powers in Iraq have clear responsibilities to restore law and order and are the current guardians of security,' said Ghanim Alnajjar, a member of the Amnesty International delegation in Iraq.

Amnesty International has seen widespread looting and scavenging of public buildings in Basra and Umm Qasr. In the University of Basra the organistion's delegates saw the burnt and destroyed building where people were still scavenging for what is left of the building materials. Amnesty International also received reports that three people were killed after stepping on an exploded landmine in Basra - at least one of those dead was a child.

'Looting is affecting more than just buildings - in the process countless documents are being burnt and destroyed,' Ghanim Alnajjar added.

'The destruction of documents will have an incalculable effect on Iraqis, on the settlement of property claims and establishment of students academic records, to providing accountability for past human rights violations.'

Yesterday, Amnesty International delegates came across a vacant lot next to the Security Directorate in Basra where British soldiers were dumping cart-loads of documents. In the absence of overall clear communications with the Iraqi people, and given the location of the vacant lot, Iraqis were anxiously searching through the documents. It was later established that they belonged to the electricity company.

Amnesty International called on the coalition forces to ensure that policing methods are put in place, including protecting evidence of human rights violations.

'Unless security measures are urgently put in place humanitarian aid will not reach the people who most need it and people will continue to be afraid of going out at night,' Ghanim Alnajjar stressed.

'Now that coalition forces are in control of Iraqi territory, they must abide by all their responsibilities - picking and choosing protection of strategic interests is not an option,' Amnesty International concluded.

Amnesty International delegates also noted that, compared with a previous visit, queues for petrol increased at least four fold.

Amnesty International continues to gather information on previous human rights violations and violations of international humanitarian law committed during the conflict.

Further information about Iraq can be found online.

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