The people of Iraq have been denied basic human rights since the Economic Sanctions were imposed in August of 1990, and the international community has done little but watch and wait. The United States and United Kingdom have bilaterally acted to deny the innocent people in Iraq clean water, electricity, materials to rebuild their devastated national infrastructure after the Gulf War, and most importantly, food. Every United Nations organization pertaining to health, agriculture and children has reported on the detrimental effects of the sanctions on the most compromised populations, the children, the sick and the elderly.

To address the issue of human rights, the international community must take a stand on the situation in Iraq. Many countries have already violated the sanctions, like France, Russia, Ireland and Syria, showing that support for the sanctions is crumbling. The international community must show the backbone to support human rights because the concept of human rights transcends ideologies, religions, and national borders. If ever there were a case for taking a strong stand in favor of human rights, Iraq is it. How can countries investigate the egregious violations of human rights in this isolated country when travel and communications with its residents is in all cases ill-advised and in some cases illegal? How can the international community ignore the World Health Organization’s reports that over half a million children have died, and more than one million total, as a direct result of the sanctions?

Is this the policy we choose to set as a standard for supporting human rights in the twenty-first century?

*Leah C. Wells it the Peace Education Coordinator at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation.