ISTANBUL - The World Tribunal on Iraq (WTI), a grouping of NGOs, intellectuals and writers opposed to the war in Iraq, on Friday accused the United States of causing more deaths in Iraq than ousted president Saddam Hussein.
"With two wars and 13 years of criminal sanctions, the United States have been responsible for more deaths in Iraq than Saddam Hussein," Larry Everest, a journalist, told hundreds of anti-war activists gathered in Istanbul.
Founded in 2003, the WTI is modelled on the 1960s Russell Tribunal, created by the British philosopher Bertrand Russell to denounce the war in Vietnam. It has held about 20 sessions so far in different locations around the world.
A symbolic verdict was to be handed down on Monday by the 14 "jurors of conscience" -- including the militant Indian novelist Arundhati Roy, winner of the 1997 Booker Prize for "The God of Small Things."
The tribunal has for the past two years been gathering what it says is evidence that the war launched in March 2003 to oust Saddam was illegal, and it has also been gathering evidence of exactions allegedly committed by coalition troops.
Its verdict on Monday after its final session is expected to condemn both the United States and Britain.
Roy told the gathering here: ""The evidence collated in this tribunal should ... be used by the International Criminal Court -- whose jurisdiction the United States does not recognize -- to try as war criminals George Bush, Tony Blair, John Howard, Silvio Berlusconi, and all those government officials, army generals, and corporate CEOs who participated in this war and now benefit from it."
She added that the tribunal was "an act of resistance," "a defense mounted against one of the most cowardly wars ever fought in history."
Hans von Sponeck, former director of the UN's so-called oil-for-food programme for Iraq, told the Istanbul gathering that the humanitarian programme "was totally irrelevant."
Von Sponeck ran the programme until 2000 when he resigned because he said it failed to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people.
The oil-for-food programme ran from 1996 to 2003. It allowed Baghdad to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods the country lacked due to international sanctions imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Critics said the sanctions led to the deaths of tens of thousands of children and a drastic decline in living standards for almost the entire Iraqi population.
The Iraqi government under Saddam swindled millions of dollars from the 64-billion-dollar scheme, and the scandal has become a huge embarrassment for the United Nations.
"The UN handling of Iraq will be listed as a massive failure," von Sponeck said. "We didn't speak out despite knowing what the economic sanctions had created as a human disaster."
He singled out the United States and British governments for allegedly blocking projects that would, he said, have allowed more people to survive.
Some 200 non-governmental organsiations -- including the environmentalist group Greenpeace, the anti-globalization ATTAC and Vietnam Veterans Against the War -- as well as a number of prominent intellectuals such as US linguist Noam Chomsky and Egyptian sociologist Samir Amin are involved in the WTI.
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