Assyrians at the United Nations
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities
48th Session Statement by Senator John Nimrod, Secretary General, Assyrian Universal Alliance (sponsored by the Transnational Radical Party) delivered to the Sub-Commission under item 6 on 8 August 1996 A Pathway to Human Rights for Northern Iraq
On behalf of the world`s over three million dispersed Assyrians, we wish to express our gratitude to the Sub-Commission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities for the opportunity to give testimony about the human rights situation of those Assyrians who have managed to remain in their ancestral homeland, particularly in Mesopotamia. In summary, I am encouraged by the reports I have received from Syria and by the testimonies I have taken personally concerning Iran, and I believe that the time has come for important human rights developments in Iraq.
Let me begin by clarifying a few things. I am not talking about the inhabitants of Syria, even though the Assyrian Empire of some four thousand years ago did indeed embrace all of what is now modern Syria. Assyria was destroyed as a political system in 612 BC but not as a nation or as a race. However, there are definite and continuous traces of Assyrians throughout history since 612 BC. They were among the first to embrace Christianity in the first century AD, and as a consequence they have suffered persecution and massacres. During the First World War they were invited by Great Britain as an ally, helped win a desicive battle against the Ottoman Empire and were caused to lose two thirds of their nation in this war. The British had promised the Assyrians independence, autonomy and a home for all Assyrians. Instead the British mandate in Iraq was terminated and the Assyrians were released to the Iraqi Government with guarantees as a minority pursuant to the 1932 Declaration of the Kingdom of Iraq (reproduced in: E/CN. 4/Sub. 2/1992/NGO/27). Since then Iraq has failed to comply with the articles of its 1932 Declaration (see also: E/CN. 4/1995/NGO/52). This also meant that Iraq has ignored the land ownership and special rights and privileges that were accorded to the inhabitants of the Mosul Vilayet which, in 1925, were conditionally placed under the authority of the Kingdom of Iraq.
In Iraq we have a very unique situation which offers an opportunity to demonstrate to the World of Nations that we can do something about effectively providing human rights to minorities that are under the perview of your Sub-Commission. To be sure, the Government of Iraq cannot alone be blamed for the present denial of human rights to the minorities in Northern Iraq. Nevertheless, Iraq must be held fully accountable for the denial of human, religious, and linguistic rights to the Assyrians, Kurds and Turkoman, and other minorities residing in the rest of the country. Examples of violations affecting the Assyrian community are detailed by the Special Rapporteur on Iraq of the Commission on Human Rights (E/CN. 4/1992/31, p. 30, 31; E/CN. 4/1994/58, p. 33; E/CN. 4/1995/91).
The situation in Iraq is such that not only are the Assyrians politically discriminated against but they are also deprived of their freedom to practice their religion and preserve their idendity, culture and language. To the Assyrians which are the indigenous people of Iraq, religion and language are so intertwined that to supress either one will effectively mean the destruction of the Assyrian identity.
The events of 1991 have brought about some responsibilities to the Commission and Sub-Commission by the acts of the United Nations which, without questioning the integrity of the country of Iraq, provides for a Comfort Zone where the majority of inhabitants North of the 36th parallel are part of the minorities of Assyrians, Kurds and Turkoman.
The results of the efforts of the past few years speak for themselves: Three thousand killed or wounded. A continuous struggle for power through control of humanitarian aid being supplied to the divided Kurds "governing" the area. A population kept captive under Kurdish control. And elections which gave false hopes of an independent Kurdish Nation. Those members of the minorities which are not allied with either of the armed camps fear for their safety and for that of their family. They struggle to provide ways of earning a living and protect their property from each other while those in command do little or nothing to help.
Yet, the opportunities exist to effectively safeguard and promote human rights to all Assyrians, Kurds, Turkoman and others of Northern Iraq. To accomplish this it is in the hands of the Sub-Commission to call for corresponding steps to be taken by the appropriate United Nation bodies. Most urgently, the power to distribute humanitarian aid must not be left in the hands of those who no longer have the confidence of the people.
AN INTERIM CIVIL ADMINISTRATION, SUPPORTED MILITARILY BY THE ALLIES, MUST BE PUT INTO PLACE WITHOUT FURTHER DELAY, IN ORDER TO PROVIDE THE NECESSARY SERVICES AND ENSURE THE EQUITABLE DISTRIBUTION OF HUMANITARIAN AID.
This administration must adequately reflect Middle East customs and traditions, and it must ensure freedom, liberty and justice for all. As such it would have to provide the necessary services and security, giving the local inhabitants the opportunity to effectively pursue the reconstruction of their villages and homes, and ensuring their civil, human, and property rights. The necessary financial means do not depend on further taxpayer money; they are already in hand and present no problem. Whatever the future holds, this process must provide a solution which is also acceptable for Iraq and the neighboring peoples and governments. For it must not become a source of regional instability, but rather one of stability, security and economic well being.
COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
48th Session, item 6 Written statement, agreed to be submitted 8 August 1996 by the Transnational Radical Party (§), a non-governmental organization in consultative status (category II) "OIL-FOR-FOOD" vs. ASSYRIAN PROPERTY RIGHTS IN IRAQ (*)
"These obligations represent the very essence of the sacred trust of civilization. Their raison d'être and original object remain. Since their fulfilment do not depend on the existence of the League of Nations, they could not be brought to an end merely because this supervisory organ [i. e. the Council of the League of Nations] ceased to exist. Nor could the right of the population to have the Territory administered in accordance with these rules depend thereon. " (ICJ Reports, 1950, p. 133).
5. In the above-mentioned internal UN memorandum of April 1992, these legal elements are summed up as follows:
With regard to the oil ownership question, these documents provide a prima facie ownership case in favor of some Turkish citizens and Kurdish tribes in whose ancestral lands the largest oil field, in Kirkuk, is situated. Accordingly, the seizure protection wording of Resolution 712, paragraph 5, may not stand in a tribunal. It is thus advisable to execute Resolutions 706 and 712 either exclusively on the basis of oil pumped from uncontested Iraqi fields not in the Mosul Vilayet area or on the basis of corresponding agreements with the Turkish Government and the involved Kurdish tribes. "
6. In addition to the Turkish and Kurdish landowners, the Assyrian community - whose diaspora has a strong foothold in the American economic and political scene - is known to have also significant land claims not only in the Mosul Vilayet but all over Iraq. In this light, serious legal challenges to the UN's "oil-for-food" program are conceivable. Those UN departments which are financially dependent on a smooth implementation and operation of SCR 986 no less than those concerned about the humanitarian fate of the people in either the government- or the Kurdish-controlled part of Iraq would thus be well advised to prepare for alternative solutions. This seems to be the more indicated as SCR 986 can be seen:
(§) Like the preceding Written Statement "A European Solution to Turkey's Minority Problems" (submitted to the Sub-Commission on 11 August 1995 by another NGO in consultative status with ECOSOC, i. e. the International Committee for European Security and Cooperation), this paper, on grounds which have not been clarified, has yet to be published by the UN Secretariat. Curiously, the editor of these and the other preceding Written Statements (published by the UN), while attending the March 1996 session of the Commission on Human Rights as duly accredited Representative of a third ECOSOC NGO, i. e. the Germany-based World Society of Victimology, was prevented from exercising his functions at the UN in Geneva by an administrative ukase, without due process and in violation of ECOSOC Resolution 1296 (XLIV). This suggests precedent-setting illegal interferences with the work of the United Nations by influential third parties.
(*) prepared in cooperation with John Nimrod, Secretary-General, Assyrian Universal Alliance (7055 North Clark Street, Chicago, Il. 60626, U. S. A. ; t:1773-2749262, f: 1773-2745866) and the CORUM Research Group (box 2580, 1211 Geneva 2, Switzerland, f:4122-7338671).
(1) in addition to various UN administrative costs and compensation payments for damages incurred in the course of Iraq's occupation of Kuwait.
(2) Assyria is not to be confounded with Syria, even though the Assyrian Empire of some 4000 years ago did indeed embrace all of what is now modern Syria - and much more. Assyria was destroyed as a political system in 612 BC but not as a nation, not as a race and not as a language. However, there are definite and continuous traces of Assyrians throughout history since 612 BC. They were among the first to embrace Christianity in the first century AD, and as a consequence they have suffered persecution and massacres. During the First World War they were invited by Great Britain as an ally, helped win a decisive battle against the Ottoman Empire and were caused to lose two thirds of their population in that war. The British had promised the Assyrians independence, autonomy and a home for all Assyrians. Instead the British mandate in Iraq was terminated and the Assyrians were released to the Iraqi Government, covered by the international minority protection guarantees written into the Declaration of the Kingdom of Iraq of 30 May 1932. Since then Iraq has failed to comply with most articles of its still binding 1932 Declaration (see also: E/CN. 4/1995/NGO/52). In particular, Iraq has violated article 14 (covering land ownership rights), and it ignored special rights and privileges that were accorded to the inhabitants of the Mosul Vilayet which, in 1925, were placed under the conditional and limited authority of the Kingdom of Iraq.
(3) Declaration of the Kingdom of Iraq of 30 May 1932, article 14 (E/CN. 4/Sub. 2/1992/NGO/27).
(4) To the South, the Mosul Vilayet borders on Iraq's Baghdad Vilayet, to the
West on Syria, to the North on Turkey and to the East on Iran. It includes the
Diala District, as defined in the League of Nations inquiry of 1925. According
to the last available census (1920), its surface is 91009 km2, and its
inhabitants were 579713 Sunnites, 22180 Shiites, 14835 Jews and 55470
Christians, i. e. mostly Assyrians (Report by HM's Government to the League
Council on the Administration of Iraq for the year 1929, p. 71).
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