[ A statement from an NGO delivering aid to Iraqis in Fallujah, Merlin, says: “Humanitarian agencies trying to supply life-saving supplies such as food and medicine have been obstructed by coalition forces”; the agency is “extremely concerned by reports that the general hospital of Falluja is being used as a military base by coalition forces,” as well. –BL ]
by Tash Shifrin
Aid agencies have warned that the Geneva convention is being breached in Falluja, Iraq, amid serious concern about the safety of civilians in the city where at least 600 people have been killed by coalition forces.
The medical emergency charity Merlin has issued a sternly worded statement, saying its fears for the safety of people in Falluja were “based on our experience on the ground in Iraq”. The UK-based charity Islamic Relief has also warned of “a potential humanitarian crisis”.
The Merlin statement warns: “We have reason to believe that the Geneva convention – which obliges the occupying power to restore and ensure public order, safety and basic service provision in the territory under its authority – is being breached.”
The charity cites the high level of civilian casualties in Falluja, where at least 600 Iraqis have been reported dead, and the use of force, as examples of the breach. “International media and our own sources on the ground report untargeted fire resulting in civilian deaths in Falluja,” Merlin says.
Other potential breaches of the Geneva convention includes reports of coalition forces preventing civilians seeking safety outside Falluja and a lack of life-saving services. Food, water and electricity are still unavailable in many parts of Falluja, the charity says.
Merlin is also extremely concerned by reports that the general hospital of Falluja is being used as a military base by coalition forces, and the level of delays to aid supplies containing food, water and medical equipment. “Humanitarian agencies trying to supply life-saving supplies such as food and medicine have been obstructed by coalition forces,” the statement says.
A spokeswoman for the charity said: “Merlin is a member of the Iraq Platform, a forum which enables non-government organisations (NGOs) working in Iraq to share information from the ground. A number of NGOs have tried to access Falluja, and have witnessed incidents we describe.
“They are becoming increasingly concerned for the civilians of Falluja, whose basic rights to safety and care are being ignored.”
Islamic Relief, another member of the Iraq Platform, has sent two convoys of humanitarian aid into Falluja, some of it supplied by other agencies that could not gain access to the besieged city. A spokesman confirmed that a third would be on the way in the next few days “if security allows it”.
“We sent a convoy to Falluja but staff came under heavy bombing. Now a third or more of the people have fled to Baghdad. We are working with those people now because the situation is very tense. We are providing food and non-food items,” the spokesman said.
Islamic Relief vehicles leaving Falluja ferried 30 fleeing families to Baghdad, including a pregnant woman who gave birth to a baby on board the charity’s truck.
Aid workers reported that doctors in Falluja “were exhausted and need to be replaced” while there was an urgent need for emergency health kits and a “severe shortage of food and medicine”. Security was “the major obstacle faced by the team”.
“We need to highlight the potential humanitarian crisis if the violence keeps going,” the spokesman said.
Islamic Relief, which is working in five areas of Iraq including Baghdad and Najaf in the south of the country, said it was developing the capacity to deal with potential crises in other cities and building up supplies of food and blankets.