Iraq's Odious Debts

Campaigners demand creditors make details of claims against Iraq public

Odious Debts Online
March 11, 2005

Debt campaigners called on Iraqi creditor nations this week to make details of claims against Iraq public, so citizens of Iraq and the creditor countries concerned could assess the legitimacy of funding provided to the former regime of Saddam Hussein. In a letter
authored by the Iraqi/Canadian Society for Writing Off Iraqi Debts and Jubilee Iraq, campaigners invoked the legal principle of odious debt in demanding creditor governments submit proof of the legitimacy of Iraq’s obligations. A legitimate state debt is one that is used in the interest of citizens with their knowledge and consent. According to the letter, “all Iraqi people and their religious and secular leaders support the cancellation of Saddam’s odious debts and the cancellation of all compensation claims awarded by the United Nations Compensation Commission.” The authors base this claim on meetings, discussions and seminars conducted with Iraqis from across the spectrum of society last
year by the UK-based debt campaigner Jubilee Iraq: “In the Holy city of Najaf, we met the highest three Ayatollah Scholars of Shiat Muslims in the world: Their Highnesses Saied Ali Al Sistani, Mohammad Saed Al Hakin and Basheer Al Najafi. They argue that the so-called civilized and democratic governments should not request the repayment of these odious debts from the new Iraqi government and all support the writing
off of those debts which are currently claimed against the oppressed people of Iraq.” Ayatollah Al Hakim also added that “creditors committed an act of oppression against the people of Iraq by providing Saddam’s regime with these funds . . . There is no question about the odious nature of these debts.” The letter was sent to political leaders
throughout Eastern Europe, including Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and the Slovakia Republics. Late last year, the Iraqi National Assembly’s (INA) Economic and Financial Committee publicly recommended the interim Iraqi government (INA) and the citizens of Iraq refuse to recognize Iraq’s
debts and reparations on the grounds they are illegitimate and legally unenforceable. The recommendation was later endorsed by the Union of Iraqi Jurists, which also charged the wealthy nations that make up the Paris Club cartel of creditors of attempting to impose on Iraqi citizens claims for loans their countries extended to the former regime of Saddam Hussein to finance “wars between Iraq and neighbouring countries” and “the building of a large defence industry in Iraq.”

Among its demands, the union called for the opportunity to engage in an open, just and transparent international arbitration process to assess the legitimacy of outstanding debts. The union also demanded a complete review of reparations claims awarded by the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC), “in order to determine who owes reparations to whom, and who should pay.” Any consideration of claims for reparations must also include claims for reparations by the people of Iraq, the union said.

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