Immediately following the departure of the Iraqi forces from Kuwait, Physicians for Human Rights UK sent a medical fact-finding mission to Kuwait to obtain first-hand accounts of Kuwait's health and human rights situation. The delegation left for Kuwait on 6th March 1991 and spent a week in Kuwait City conducting its inquiries.
Each of the six main hospitals in Kuwait City were visited by PHR-UK and statements taken from the staff. Rigga Cemetery, the main burial ground during the occupation, was examined. PHR-UK documented some of the effects of the Iraqi occupation on the provision and delivery of health care.
While in Kuwait, the delegation became aware of another category of human rights abuse which took place after the country was liberated. It was alleged that some soldiers and civilians were involved in abductions, torture and beating of members of the Palestinian community in Kuwait. Similar actions were also reported against other nationals.
It proved possible to examine and take statements from several Palestinians and Asians in Kuwait City, as well as some refugees on the Iraq/Kuwait border.
PHR-UK found evidence to support various allegations of violations of health and human rights. First, there were consistent and corroborative statements concerning torture and beating of civilians, mainly Kuwaitis. In some instances, torture victims were killed in front of relatives, who were forbidden to remove their bodies for some time. Secondly, murder of civilians took place throughout the occupation. The delegation estimated that at least 600 Kuwaiti civilians were buried in the main cemetery after being killed or tortured. In addition, a substantial number of women were raped during the occupation allegedly by Iraqi soldiers. The most significant factor influencing the morbidity and mortality within the health care system was the significant reduction in staffing levels of the hospitals. This was caused by the departure of many health care providers from Kuwait.
PHR’s findings failed to confirm stories concerning infant death. No evidence was found to substantiate the widely publicised claims of premature infants being taken out of incubators and left to die. Although no evidence was found of incubators being looted, evidence emerged that other medical equipment was removed from some of the hospitals.
After the Iraqi withdrawal, PHR-UK found that some Palestinians had been abducted, beaten and "disappeared" at the actual time of its mission; but the extent of this abuse was difficult to assess. Also, Asians in Kuwait reported discrimination against them in obtaining food supplies. Finally, Bedun and Palestinian refugees from Kuwait, who had fled or were abducted, were being refused re-entry into Kuwait.
PHR's aims in the mission to Kuwait in 1991 were to investigate the allegations of human rights violations by Iraqi forces during its occupation of Kuwait, to investigate and document the effects of the occupation on the delivery of health care and to investigate allegations of human rights violations against non-Kuwaitis following the Iraqi withdrawal. PHR-UK succeeded in gathering evidence consisting of statements from health care workers who had dealt with dead bodies and cared for those that had been tortured and from witnesses to the killing of civilians and survivors of torture. In addition, data was obtained from visits to hospital mortuaries and Rigga Cemetery and from photographic evidence. PHR–UK concludes there is cause for serious concern regarding the protection of health and human rights during the occupation of Kuwait and its aftermath.
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