UNITED NATIONS (IPS)–Groups representing more than 300 international lawyers, jurists and physicians recently warned that a military attack on Iraq would not only be a blatant violation of international law but could kill over 200,000 people.

The statements, issued separately by two groups, have been transmitted to the 15-member UN Security Council, which is expected to decide soon whether to authorize a U.S.-led attack on Baghdad.

“U.S. President Bush has no interest in or understanding of international law,” said Peter Weiss, vice president of the International Association of Lawyers Against Nuclear Arms (IALANA). “He is in the process of dismantling the entire structure of law-based international security created since World War II.”


Mr. Weiss said an attack on Iraq would likely be “extremely devastating”, based on Secretary of State Colin Powell’s doctrine of “quick victory through overwhelming force.”

Medact, a British affiliate of the group International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), has estimated that a war on Iraq could cause 48,000 to 261,000 deaths on all sides within the first three months and another 200,000 longer-term deaths, said IPPNW spokesman Victor Sidel, professor of social medicine at New York’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

“As physicians, many of whom have seen and responded to the consequences of war for both combatants and non-combatants, we consider the price that the Iraqi people are about to pay unacceptable, especially when clear alternatives to war exist and have been advocated throughout the international community,” he added.

Last month, a team of 10 health experts said that Iraq’s 13 million children face greater danger than prior to the 1991 Gulf War. “Iraqi children are at grave risk of starvation, disease, death and psychological trauma,” concluded their report.

IALANA, a coalition of more than 200 international lawyers and jurists from over 30 countries, says “there is no precedent in international law for the use of force as a preventive measure when there has been no actual or imminent attack.”

“The Security Council has never authorized force based on a potential, non-imminent threat of violence. All past authorizations have been in response to actual invasion, large-scale violence or humanitarian emergency,” it added.

The group also said that the Security Council has established mechanisms to address the concerns regarding alleged Iraqi weapons of mass destruction (WMD), including diplomatic pressure, negotiations, sanctions on certain goods with military applications, destruction of stockpiles of WMD, and inspections of facilities able to help produce such weapons.