Security Council members condemn use of chemical weapons in Iran-Iraq conflict; demand observance of Geneva protocol
Security Council members condemn use of chemical weapons in Iran-Iraq conflict
SECURITY COUNCIL members on 14 May strongly condemned the repeated use of chemical weapons in the continuing conflict between Iran and Iraq in open violation of the Geneva Protocol of 1925, by which, they stated, the use of chemical weapons in war is “clearly prohibited’. In a statement issued by Council President Li Luye (China), they said members had considered the report (S/18852) of the mission of specialists dispatched by Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq conflict (see p. 34).
Council members were “deeply dismayed’ by the unanimous conclusion that there had been repeated use of chemical weapons against Iranian forces by Iraqi forces, that civilians in Iran had been injured by chemical weapons, and that Iraqi military personnel had sustained injuries from chemical warfare agents.
Recalling previous statements emanating from the Council, members again emphatically demanded that the provisions of the 1925 Geneva Protocol for the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of bacteriological methods of warfare, be strictly respected and observed.
They also condemned the “prolongation of the conflict which, in addition to violations of international humanitarian law, continues to exact an appalling toll of human life, to cause heavy material damage in the two States and to endanger peace and security in the region’.
Support was expressed for the Secretary-General’s efforts to restore peace to the peoples of Iran and Iraq and both sides were called on to respond positively to his efforts.
Council members also expressed grave concern over the dangers of an extension of the conflict to other States in the region, and reiterated their call for respect for the territorial integrity of all those States. They reaffirmed their resolution 582 (1986) and called on both parties to co-operate with the Council’s efforts to “open the way to an early settlement of the conflict on the basis of justice and honour’.
By resolution 582, the two countries were asked to observe “an immediate cease-fire, a cessation of all hostilities on land, at sea, and in the air and withdrawal of all forces to the internationally recognized boundaries without delay’. Both parties were also called on to submit immediately “all aspects of the conflict to mediation or to any other means of peaceful settlement of disputes’.
Under other provisions, the Council deplored the initial acts which gave rise to the conflict between Iran and Iraq, and its continuation and escalation, “especially territorial incursions, the bombing of purely civilian population centres, attacks on neutral shipping or civilian aircraft, the violation of international humanitarian law and other laws of armed conflict and, in particular, the use of chemical weapons contrary to obligations under the 1925 Geneva Protocol’. (Both Iran and Iraq are parties to the Protocol, which calls for “the prohibition of the use in war of asphyxiating, poisonous or other gases, and of bacteriological methods of warfare’.)
The Council urged that a comprehensive exchange of prisoners of war be completed within a short period after the cessation of hostilities in cooperation with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
All other States were called upon to “exercise the utmost restraint’ and refrain from any act which might lead to a further escalation and widening of the conflict.
In an 8 May note forwarding to the Council the report of the specialists sent by him to investigate allegations of the use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq conflict, the Secretary-General said he regretted to inform the Council that the unanimous conclusion was that chemical weapons continued to be used in that conflict in violation of the 1925 Geneva Protocol.
The field investigations undertaken were in tontinuation of those made in March 1984, in April 1985 and February 1986. The four specialists involved had conducted the field investigations in March 1984 and February 1986 to undertake the present investigation.
Mr. Perez de Cuellar, expressing deep dismay at the mission’s conclusions, said the findings added new urgency to the grave concern of the international community.
The fact that the use of chemical weapons continued despite repeated appeals by the Council and the Secretary-General gave rise to the fear that such use could escalate and seriously undermine the 1925 Geneva Protocol, “which has heretofore been considered one of the most worthy and successful attempts by the international community to mitigate the effects of war’.
The Secretary-General drew the Council’s attention to the mission’s belief that “there is little more that we can do that is likely to assist the United Nations in its efforts to prevent the use of chemical weapons in the present conflict’. Only concerted efforts at the political level would hold out any hope of “maintaining commitment to this vital Protocol, most importantly in the present conflict’, he said. Violation of that instrument was “one of the gravest infringements of international norms’ and he strongly and unequivocally condemned the use of chemical weapons “whenever and wherever this may occur’.
His paramount objective was to bring the “protracted and ruinous conflict’ to the earliest possible end through a comprehensive, just and honourable settlement, ultimately the only way to end the appalling loss of life, to prevent the spread of the conflict and to ensure regional and international peace and security. His specific ideas had been presented to the parties and to the Council and he was ready to assist in the search for such a settlement. Both Iran and Iraq should urgently respond to United Nations efforts to restore peace to the peoples of those nations.
The mission visited Iran from 22 to 29 April, and Iraq from 29 April to 3 May; its visit first was to the latter.
The specialists are: Dr. Gustav Andersson, Deputy Head of the Chemical Division of the Swedish National Defense Research Institute; Dr. Manuel Dominguez, Colonel, Army Medical Corps and specialist in nuclear, biological and chemical weapons injuries, and Professor of Preventive Medicine at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, Spain; Dr. Peter Dunn, Superintendent of the Organic Chemistry Division of the Material Research Laboratories of Australia’s Defence Science and Technology Organization; and Dr. Ulrich Imobersteg Oberstof, Former Chief, Nuclear, Biological and Chemical Weapons Defence, of the Swiss Defense Ministry.
Iran reaction: On 15 May, Said Rajaie-Khorassani, Permanent Representative of Iran, told correspondents at Headquarters that although the report had stated specifically that Iraq had used chemical weapons against Iran, the Security Council was ignoring the mission’s sincere report and addressing only the general principle, condemning the use of chemical weapons in general without condemning Iraq by name. Only one conclusion could be drawn–that the Council was prepared to condone that behaviour by Iraq.
On 21 May, Ali Akbar Velayati, Minister for Foreign Affairs of Iran, in a letter (A/42/306, S/18878) to the Secretary-General, said that the Security Council had taken “a weak position’ and continued to “avoid the adoption of any measures which would be opposed by the Iraqi regime’. The Secretary-General should call on all States and concerned international organizations to make concerted efforts in order to persuade the Iraqi regime to undertake not to use chemical weapons. All States should be called upon to refrain from exporting various chemicals which can be converted to chemical weapons.
Iraq reaction: On 18 May, Ismat Kittani, Permanent Representative of Iraq, in a letter (S/18870) to the Secretary-General, said the Council had stated that Iraqi military personnel had sustained injuries from chemical warfare agents without actually affirming that Iran used chemical weapons against them. Iraq regretted that “serious shortcoming’ on the mission’s part, which was in fundamental conflict with reliable evidence of which the mission had knowledge and from which it could have deduced that Iran was indeed using chemical weapons. The Council’s statement was therefore “wanting in accuracy’.
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