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Iraq: Indict Saddam Forum Aims To Raise Awareness Of Goals

The international campaign to indict Iraqi President Saddam Hussein for crimes against humanity is holding a public conference in Paris today. The campaign's coordinator describes the program in the following interview with RFE/RL correspondent Charles Recknagel.

Prague, 14 April 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Ann Clwyd, a member of the British parliament, is the head of Indict -- an international effort to gather evidence of war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by Saddam Hussein and top members of his regime.

The campaign, launched three years ago and headquartered in London, is hosting a day-long conference in Paris today to raise awareness in France of its goals. Those goals include convincing the United Nations to establish a war-crimes tribunal for Iraq like those which already exist for Rwanda and Bosnia.

RFE/RL spoke with Ann Clwyd by phone from Paris to learn more about today's conference.

She said the campaign chose Paris as the site for the meeting because it hopes to enlist greater support from France for creating an international criminal tribunal for Iraq's leaders. Clwyd:

"France, of course, is a member of the [UN] Security Council, and France is dragging its feet a bit on setting up an ad-hoc tribunal for Iraq, which was a policy favored by senior members of the French government following the [1991] Gulf War. So, we are focusing on the human rights violations committed by the regime of Saddam Hussein since 1979 and the avenues of redress open to the victims who have suffered during the course of that regime. We have [at the conference] people who have been tortured in Iraq, some of the victims of [Baghdad's 1988 attack on Iraqi Kurds at] Halabjah, when chemical and biological weapons were used by Saddam Hussein, and we are hoping to encourage the French public to support moves to set up an international criminal tribunal at the UN for Iraq as they have for Rwanda, the former Yugoslavia, and are going to do on Cambodia and probably East Timor as well."

Our correspondent asked Clwyd who will be attending the conference. She replied:

"It is a wide variety of people who are active in the Iraqi opposition, journalists and people from the broadcast media and academics who have written books or papers. We have some of the board members of Indict speaking, two board members. One is Dr. Hamid Al-Bayati, who is an Iraqi, and the other is [U.S.] Ambassador Peter Galbraith, who presently is working for the UN in East Timor."

She said that in addition to the conference, Indict is publicizing its activities in the French media to raise interest in the campaign.

"We have placed an advertisement in a French newspaper, 'Le Monde,' asking people who are interested in supporting the aims of Indict, or becoming actively involved, to get in touch with us after the conference, because we are in the process of tracking down those of the Iraqi leadership who are alleged to be responsible for human rights abuses and many of the victims live in France. So, they could, I think, exercise a lot of pressure on the French government to support the setting up of a tribunal at the UN"

RFE/RL asked what other activities Indict plans for the near future.

"We are concentrating initially on trying to get an indictment against one member of the regime fairly quickly and we have gathered a lot of evidence and we hope to secure an indictment in the not too distant future."

The opening speech for the conference is by Danielle Mitterand, the widow of the former French president. The morning's events include sessions on human rights violations in Iraq, the impact of Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait on the Kuwaiti population, the destruction of southern Iraq, and the human rights situation in Iraq today.

Afternoon events include sessions on the record of the Iraqi regime since the 1991 Gulf war, French-Iraqi relations, and France and Europe's role in support of international justice. Closing remarks will be by Jose Ramos Horta, the Nobel peace prize winner from East Timor.