Letter: UN has the authority to relieve Sarajevo

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The Independent Online
Sir: On Thursday morning a group of us delivered sewage to Downing Street. This was a small but significant gesture. In Sarajevo today families are boiling sewage in order to get drinking water.

Sarajevo has been under siege for 15 months. Now the Serbs are refusing to allow UN convoys carrying fuel supplies to enter the city. The fuel is needed to operate the pumps that clean the water. Surgeons cannot wash their hands before performing operations. The first cases of typhus have already been reported. The WHO is predicting imminent epidemics of typhus, dysentery and cholera.

The UN has the authority to lift the siege of Sarajevo. Resolution 770, passed in August 1992, authorises the UN to use 'all necessary means' to ensure humanitarian supplies to the civilian population of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Resolution 815 extends the mandate of UN troops to act without the agreement of all parties, under Chapter VII of the Charter of the UN. The UN military committee in Sarajevo has military plans to lift the siege of Sarajevo; General Morillon has said that this is feasible, even with the troops currently in Sarajevo.

While we all acknowledge that the situation is complex and difficult, we cannot accept that the only alternative is to do nothing. We call upon our government, through its voice in the UN and its influence in Europe, to lift the siege now. This would not only bring relief to the people of Sarajevo, it would save a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural community which has resisted ethnic division and which symbolises the values of the UN Charter. It could also create a space where diplomatic and political initiatives would not be entirely dictated by might over right.

The alternative is the slow death of hundreds of thousands of people and massive numbers of refugees.

Yours faithfully,

PAM GIDDY, LESLEY ABDELA, LISA APPIGNANESI, BERYL BAINBRIDGE, JEANETTE BIRSKI, SARAH DUNANT, LISA JARDINE, MICHAEL IGNATIEFF, MARY KALDOR, JULIA NEUBERGER, CLAIRE RAYNER, MICHELLE ROBERTS, NATALIE SPEIR, SUSANNAH YORK, MICHAEL MEACHER MP, CALUM MacDONALD MP, LIZ LYNN MP, FRANK FIELD MP, HARRY BARNES MP, LADY WYNNE JONES

London, SW4

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