On April 18, HRN made the following press release:
Human Rights Now
10 Years After the War, Innocent New Lives are Still Dying and Suffering in Iraq. Human Rights Now (HRN), a Tokyo based human rights NGO, has released its report from a fact finding mission on congenital birth defects in Fallujah, Iraq in 2013.
This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Iraq War. After the war, particularly in the most recent few years, a deeply troubling rise in the number of birth defects has been reported by doctors in Iraq. This has led to suspicions that environmental contamination from the war may be having a significant negative effect on the health of local people, and in particular infants and children. In Fallujah, the Iraqi city heavily attacked by the US twice in 2004, data collected by Fallujah General Hospital shows that around 15% of all births in Fallujah since 2003 have some form of congenital birth defect.
In early 2013, Human Rights Now (HRN), a Tokyo based international human rights NGO with special consultative status to the United Nations Economic and Social Council, conducted a fact-finding mission to the city of Fallujah, to investigate the reported increase in the number of birth defects in Iraq.
Today, HRN released its report entitled "Innocent New Lives are Still Dying and Suffering in Iraq".
Comprising over 50 pages, the full report is available to both read and download in PDF format here.
This is the first investigation conducted by an international human rights NGO on the congenital birth defect issue in Iraq, since 2003. Despite the gravity of the situation, there has not been a sufficient investigation of the health consequences associated with toxic munitions in Iraq by the US, UK or any independent international organization such as a UN body.
Through a one month period's extensive investigation, the fact finding team has found an extraordinary situation of congenital birth defects in both nature and quantity. The investigation suggested a significant rise in these health consequences in the period following the war, and HRN found that the rights to health and life of children have been seriously violated in Fallujah, Iraq, and that the epidemic of congenital birth defects in Iraq needs immediate international attention.
The report discloses documentation and photos of over 70 cases of recent birth defects in Fallujah, with the permission of the hospital and the families. "Although the disclosure of such incidents is an extremely sensitive issue, the families and especially the mothers expressed a strong desire to share their cases in order to highlight the birth defect situation in Iraq. We sincerely hope many people in the world, especially the states concerned as well as relevant international institutions, know the gravity of the victimization.", Kazuko Ito, Secretary General of Human Rights Now stated.
An overview of scientific literature relating to the effects of uranium and heavy metals associated with munitions used in the 2003 Iraq War and occupation, together with potential exposure pathways, strongly suggest that environmental contamination resulting from combat during the Iraq War may be playing a significant role in the observed rate of birth defects. However, without sufficient disclosure of information related to toxic weapons used during the conflict, the cause of the problem has not yet been identified.
In order to prevent further victimization of the lives of innocent children, it is urgent that a comprehensive investigation into the prevalence of birth defects and toxicity related illnesses in Iraq be conducted, including any correlation between such illnesses and scrap or munitions debris left by the Iraq conflict. It is essential to investigate the sources and spread of birth defects, identify causes, establish effective public health policies and medical care, and provide appropriate compensation for victims.
Human Rights Now therefore calls on the US and UK governments to disclose all information regarding the types of weapons used during the occupation, quantities fired, and exact firing points, and to take necessary measures to protect the right to health and life of the local people if a pollution problem is indicated.
Furthermore, HRN calls on the Iraqi government to establish an independent commission into investigating serious health problems reported after the war, and the UN Human Rights Council to establish measures for the investigation of all human rights abuses committed during the war, including the use of inhumane and toxic weapons. The outcomes of the World Health Organization (WHO) investigation into the birth defect issue in Iraq has yet to be publicly released, but in the event of a public health issue being identified, HRN additionally urges the WHO to provide technical assistance and guidance in creating policies and measures to tackle the issue, as well as to consider conducting further investigations to try to better clarify the epidemiological nature of the phenomenon.