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15 February 2004

Bremer Opens Iraq's First Human Rights Ministry

Feb. 14, Baghdad; Ministry will "protect and respect the Iraqi people"

Iraq's first human rights ministry, opened February 14, is intended to help Iraq emerge from the "darkness of tyranny to the light of the modern world, " according to chief U.S. Administrator for Iraq L. Paul Bremer.

In his address to its new employees, Bremer said Iraq's Ministry of Human Rights will serve as a "corrective to decades of perverse government" and will help guide the Iraqi government to its real purpose -- "serving and protecting the people."

The ministry will be tasked with preparing a declaration of human rights for Iraqis, encouraging the growth of independent human rights organizations within Iraq, and documenting the fate of the hundreds of thousands of missing people as a result of Saddam Hussein's repressive regime, Bremer explained.

"Through the patient collection of facts and artifacts, the Ministry will make it impossible for apologists for Saddam's regime to deny reality—that Saddamist tyranny deprived Iraq's men, women and children their basic human rights," Bremer said.

Bremer also defended the U.S.-led liberation of Iraq.

"There is a debate in some European countries and even among some Americans about whether we did the right thing in liberating Iraq from Saddam's regime."

"To those who ask this question I say: ‘Come to Iraq and visit the mass graves.'"

Following is a transcript of Mr. Bremer's remarks:

(begin text)

L. Paul Bremer
Administrator
Coalition Provisional Authority
http://www.cpa-iraq.org

Opening of Ministry of Human Rights Building
14 February 2004
Mr. Minister, employees of the new Ministry of Human Rights, ladies and gentlemen:

It is great pleasure to be here with you at this happy occasion—opening this new Ministry. Mr. Minister, it is indeed appropriate that this ministry should be in this building. For I understand that in the Saddam tyranny, the Ministry of Defense used this building. That was a ministry dedicated to repressing the citizens of Iraq. Now we have a ministry whose job it is, as the sign behind me says, "to protect and respect the Iraqi people."

And so that is why there is a Ministry of Human Rights in the new Iraq.

Protecting the basic rights of its citizens is among the fundamental roles of any government. But this is the exact opposite of Iraq's experience under Saddam's tyranny, a tyranny that directed parts of the regime itself to take away these rights.

For longer than most Iraqis have been alive...

• Instead of serving them, their government suppressed them.

• Instead of preserving the rights of Iraq's citizens, the regime destroyed them.

• Instead of improving the well-being of Iraqi men and women, the government used its power and resources to secure the privileges of one man and his family and their friends and followers.

Mr. Minister, there is a debate in some European countries and even among some Americans about whether we did the right thing in liberating Iraq from Saddam's regime. To those who ask this question I say:

• come to Iraq and visit the mass graves at al-Hillah or dozens of other sites;
• come to Iraq and visit the grave in Halabja marking the thousands killed by chemical gases;
• come to Iraq and visit the torture chambers in the Olympic village;
• come to Iraq and visit the rape rooms in the police stations.

Do visit Iraq and then you will know that the Coalition did a great and noble thing in liberating the Iraqi people from this cruel tyranny.

Those days are over.

Today there is a new Iraq, an Iraq which daily reclaims its place in the community of nations.

This ministry, its mission and accomplishments are further evidence of Iraq's emergence from the darkness of tyranny to the light of the modern world.

Ladies and gentlemen, Iraq is back.

* * *

This Ministry of Human Rights serves as a corrective to decades of perverse government. Its purpose is to lead, to pull, to steer the Government of Iraq back to the real purpose of government—serving and protecting the people.

The leadership and workers of this Ministry will, through documentation and education, serve as the collective conscience of the Iraqi people.

• By documenting the fate of the hundreds of thousands of missing, by giving names and dates and places to those sacrificed to Saddam's lust for power, the dead will remind the living of what happens when government protects the powerful and not the powerless.

• Through the patient collection of facts and artifacts, the Ministry will make it impossible for apologists for Saddam's regime to deny reality—that Saddamist tyranny deprived Iraq's men, women and children their basic human rights.

• By preparing an Iraqi Declaration of Human Rights, the Ministry will help remind all of the true purpose of government.

• By encouraging the growth of independent human rights organizations in Iraq, this ministry will help guard against governments that confuse the well-being of the governors with the well-being of the governed.

These things will not happen of themselves.

Achieving them will require the industry and dedication of those within and without this ministry. I am confident that the people of Iraq possess that industry, possess that dedication.

Setbacks and discouragement are part of every meaningful human endeavor. But I urge each of you to remember what will happen if you persist, if you continue to champion human dignity.

Because you will not give up, because you will surpass challenges, the day will come when the Iraqi Ministry of Human Rights will no longer be needed.

It will no longer be needed because on that day the theoretical purpose of government will be reconciled with the daily, palpable reality. And when that happens Iraqis can rightfully say,

We have no need of a Human Rights Ministry. The whole of government protects our rights.

Mabruk al Iraq al Jadeed.

Aash al-Iraq!

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)



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