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Middle East 2007
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Letter from Louise Arbour
to TFF's Hans von Sponeck

This is Mme Arbour's letter in response to an Open Letter from Dennis
Halliday and von Sponeck, both former high-level UN officers.
We urge you to read the Open Letter first and then judge the
extent to which Louise Arbour's letter is a response to their concerns -
Jan Oberg


Geneva - July 12, 2007

Dear Mr. von Sponeck, dear Mr. Halliday

I would like to thank you for you letter of 25 June 2007 in which you express concern about the apparent silence of the United Nations on the general human rights situation in Iraq.

In this respect, I wish to highlight that my Office and the UNAMI Human Rights Office actively and closely monitor the human rights situation in Iraq to the best extent possible, under very difficult and dangerous circumstances. As you know, since 2005 UNAMI has been issuing bi-monthly (now quarterly) public human rights reports, dealing with human rights violations committed by all actors. These reports receive wide public attention, which creates pressure on the Government of Iraq and has already resulted in a number of positive developments in the area of human rights.

Furthermore, UNAMI and OHCHR maintain an active programme of human rights capacity-building activities in Iraq, and are engaged in a constructive dialogue with the concerned parties to address human rights violations committed by different actors. I have also drawn attention to the deteriorating human rights situation in the country in my statements to the Human Rights Council. On these occasions, I have called upon Iraqi leaders from all sides, Multi-National Forces in Iraq and the international community as a whole to increase efforts to address, as a priority, the security of all civilians and to ensure respect for the rule of law.

As you might be aware, the situation in Iraq is a periodic item on the agenda of the Security Council, which also involves a review of the human rights situation. The quarterly reports of the Secretary-General to the Security Council on Iraq regularly highlight the prevailing human rights situation and urge all parties to rectify current shortcomings.

Additionally, you express regret about the fact there has not been a special rapporteur on Iraq since 2004. In this context, I wish to inform you that only the Human Rights Council has the authority to establish mechanisms to address specific country situations. That said, I would like to draw your attention to the activities of a number of thematic mandate holders, who are following closely the human rights situation in Iraq. They highlight the severe patterns of human rights violations in their public reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly and intervene on behalf of victims with the Government of Iraq.

OHCHR is committed to doing everything within its mandate to promote and protect human right in Iraq. Thank you again for your expression of concern.


Yours sincerely


Louise Arbour

High Commissioner for Human Rights


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