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Bremer Notes Human Rights Progress in Iraq

By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Dec. 10, 2003 – Ambassador L. Paul Bremer III , administrator of the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, observed Human Rights Day today by promising that the coalition would continue to work to ensure equality for all Iraqis.

"The laws of God and man alike insist that all people, including women, have rights, equality and justice," said Bremer in observing the 54th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations General Assembly's Universal Declaration of Human Rights .

The declaration recognizes that "the inherent dignity and the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world."

Iraq and all the nations of the coalition that existed at the time agreed to the declaration's principles when it was created in 1948, Bremer said.

Since then, he said, no nation in the world, including the United States, has continuously lived up to every one of the rights the declaration protects. But, Bremer said, "no one knows better than the citizens of Iraq just how bad the human rights climate" in that country had been under Saddam Hussein.

"Until the coalition drove Saddam the fugitive from power, Iraqis had fewer rights than when its representatives signed the Human Rights Declaration in 1948," Bremer said.

"The list of rights lost to Saddam the fugitive and his henchmen is long, and is well known to Iraqis. There was no right to speak, to assemble peacefully, to travel to other countries, to be treated equally before the law -- even, as the mass graves prove, to live."

Fortunately, Bremer told the group, all that has changed. "In today's Iraq, any person can speak his or her mind, travel abroad, assemble peaceably and more with no interference from government," he said.

But Bremer said work remains, particularly in the area of women's rights.

"Women's rights were abused terribly under Saddam the tyrant," he said. "Their sex did not protect women from murder and was turned against them with rape rooms and the depredations of his sons, especially Uday."

Bremer said women's education was so degraded that, according to the United Nations, 73 percent of Iraqi women are illiterate.

Fortunately, he said, the practice of denying women and girls their basic right to an education has ended. The coalition is working closely with the Iraqi Governing Council to encourage families to send their girls as well as their boys to school and to permit women to take their place in society a place, he said, that "violates no religion (and) destroys no family."

"Of the many tasks remaining to the Iraqi people," he said, "none is more important than assuring the rights of every person."

He said the coalition will ensure that the basic law for Iraq -- the law of the land until a permanent constitution is adopted -- guarantees every citizen's basic human rights. He promised that the law will give "every citizen rights equal to those of every other citizen, Sunni or Shia, Muslim or Christian, Kurd or Turkoman, Arab or Jew, man or woman."

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