Inside File: UN back-pedals on Baghdad sanctions report

'CHILDREN, War and Sanctions' is the story of a report that never happened. It involves the conclusions of an expert witness on the plight of Iraqi civilians two years after the Gulf war. It was commissioned by Unicef, a body that functions under the umbrella of the UN - the very institution that went to war against Iraq and has maintained sanctions against it since. Its ultimate fate is an object lesson in how humanitarian concerns can be exploited to make political points, in particular when the regime involved is that of Saddam Hussein.

In February, the UN Children's Fund commissioned Eric Hoskins, a Harvard expert on public health, to compile a 'situation analysis' for its country programme in Iraq. 'We did not commission him to do a report on the effect of war and sanctions,' said a Unicef official.

Yet Dr Hoskins' 32-page 'preliminary draft' - obtained by the Independent - purports to identify 'the impact of war and sanctions on Iraqi women and children'. It states, inter alia, that 'nearly three years of economic sanctions have created circumstances in Iraq where the majority of the civilian population are now living in poverty', and that 'by most accounts, the greatest threat to the health and well-being of the Iraqi people remains the difficult economic conditions created by nearly three years of internationally mandated sanctions and by the infrastructural damage wrought by the 1991 military conflict'.

The 'executive summary' concludes: 'Sanctions, unless applied in a manner which safeguards the civilian population, may threaten the more vulnerable members of society - especially children and women. Indeed, it may be that one fundamental contradiction remains: that politically motivated sanctions (which are by definition imposed to create hardship) cannot be implemented in a manner which spares the vulnerable.'

'We were not satisfied with it,' said a Unicef official. 'We have in fact shelved it. The report reaches conclusions not entirely based on fact.' Although the UN sanctions were bound to have a negative effect, 'we do not have enough evidence that they are entirely to blame'. The country's own running-down of its services and its currency reform were also contributory factors, he said.

An aid worker from an independent body went further: 'We tend to be more sceptical than the author of the report. The Iraqis are very good at manipulating information.'

Dr Hoskins' view is that 'I think I produced a good document.'

Had it been made public, the report would inevitably have been misused as propaganda fodder by Iraq. On Tuesday the oxymoronically titled Iraqi Justice Minister, Shebib al-Maliki, told the UN Conference on Human Rights in Vienna that the sanctions were a 'flagrant abuse of power and a crime of genocide perpetrated against an entire people', adding that the permanent members of the Security Council 'do not find it enough to have inflicted all the destruction that they did on Iraq's civil and economic infrastructure . . . the people of Iraq suffer today from shortages in food, medicine and medical requirements.'

A brief look at the other side of the equation: President Saddam's record in complying with the UN resolutions, the one route to getting the sanctions lifted. UN inspectors yesterday remained locked in a row with Iraq over the installation of two remote cameras to monitor missile test sites and removal of chemical production equipment.

More disturbingly, President Saddam last month added another Briton to his list of foreigners languishing in Abu Ghraib jail with near-decade sentences for the relatively petty offence of crossing the border into Iraq. He joins two Britons, three Swedes, a German and several non-Europeans.

A senior Foreign Office official is due to visit the Britons this weekend. President Saddam is thus reviving his practice of taking hostages to blackmail the West: he has made it known the men's fate depends on an unfreezing of Iraqi assets. He has also sought, in vain, to cause a rift between Sweden and Britain by privately telling the Swedes that their men would be released were it not for the unco-operative attitude of Britain.

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
Could you tell the difference between this and an organic alternative?
food + drink

Culinary experts in The Netherlands thought it was 'fresh' and 'tasty'

Life and Style
Six of the 76 Goats' cheese samples contained a significant amount of sheep's cheese
food + drink
Russell Brand arriving for the book launch in East London
peopleRussell Brand cancels his book launch debate due to concerns about the make-up of the panel
Arts and Entertainment
JK Rowling will not be releasing a 'romance' novel anytime soon
Arts and Entertainment
Contestants during this summer's Celebrity Big Brother grand finale
tvBroadcaster attempts to change its image following sale to US
Life and Style

Of all the computers Apple has ever made there’s only one that Steve Jobs had to sell his car to finance

Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Dales attempts to sell British Breeze in the luxury scent task
tvReview: 'Apprentice' candidates on the verge of tears as they were ejected from the boardroom
One of the 'princesses' in the video
videoYouTube reinstates sweary video after takedown for 'violating terms'
Call me Superman: one of many unusual names chosen by Chinese students
newsChinese state TV offers advice for citizens picking a Western moniker
Arts and Entertainment

Marvel has released first teaser trailer week early after it leaked online

Arts and Entertainment
Awesome foursome: Sam Smith shows off his awards
music22-year-old confirms he is 2014’s breakout British music success
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant

£70 - £85 per day: Randstad Education Group: SEN Teaching Assistants needed in...

Year 4 Teacher required for 2 terms

£21500 - £35000 per annum: Randstad Education Cambridge: Randstad Education ar...

Accounts Assistant - Sales Ledger, Sage Line 50 - St Albans

£20000 - £22000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A highly successful and w...

EBD Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Are you a quailed Teacher ...

Day In a Page

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker
Renée Zellweger's real crime has been to age in an industry that prizes women's youth over humanity

'Renée Zellweger's real crime was to age'

The actress's altered appearance raised eyebrows at Elle's Women in Hollywood awards on Monday
From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

Disney plans live-action remakes of animated classics

From Cinderella to The Jungle Book, Patrick Grafton-Green wonders if they can ever recapture the old magic
Thousands of teenagers to visit battlefields of the First World War in new Government scheme

Pupils to visit First World War battlefields

A new Government scheme aims to bring the the horrors of the conflict to life over the next five years
The 10 best smartphone accessories

Make the most of your mobile: 10 best smartphone accessories

Try these add-ons for everything from secret charging to making sure you never lose your keys again
Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time against Real Madrid: Was this shirt swapping the real reason?

Liverpool v Real Madrid

Mario Balotelli substituted at half-time. Was shirt swapping the real reason?
West Indies tour of India: Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Hurricane set to sweep Windies into the shadows

Decision to pull out of India tour leaves the WICB fighting for its existence with an off-field storm building
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Wildlife Photographer of the Year: Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize

Wildlife Photographer of the Year

Intimate image of resting lions claims top prize
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?