Voices in the Wilderness spokeswoman Cathy Breen told Aljazeera.net on Wednesday that many Iraqi civilians were already living in total insecurity and that additional economic woes were "unconscionable".

"Seventy per cent of Baghdad has been without water for ten days, a major health issue is developing, and yet the UN continues to punish ordinary people for an invasion they were not responsible for, extracting multi-billion dollar compensation payments.

"If anyone should be paying compensation, it should by the US paying money to the Iraqi people for immorally and illegal invading their country and destroying it on a massive scale", Breen said.

"But what is truly sad is the lack of interest among Western media to take up this issue. We must stop this crime of making the poor and defenceless pay for someone else's crimes", she said.

Her comments followed the conclusion of the 56th session of the United Nations Compensation Commission (UNCC) in Geneva on Wednesday.

Multi-billion dollar payments

The UNCC handles payouts by Iraq and gathers every quarter to examine claims and manage compensation payments to individuals, companies or governments following the 1990 to 1991 invasion of Kuwait and the Gulf War. 
  

"If anyone should be paying compensation, it should by the US paying money to the Iraqi people for immorally and illegal invading their country and destroying it on a massive scale."

Kathy Green,
Voices in the Wilderness

On Tuesday, Iraq signalled that it wanted to reduce the five percent proportion of its oil revenues it pays to the UNCC, according to a source close to the commission.
  
So far the UNCC has approved compensation of $52.1bn on $303bn in claims. About $19.2bn has been disbursed so far.

Irish peace activist Caoimhe Butterly told journalists that these massive payments "continue to contribute to the violation of Iraq's economic rights. This is a banner that the anti-war movement has to pick up".
  
UNCC

But the UNCC is powerless to stop taking Iraqi revenue until the international community amends UN Security Council resolution 687.

The 1991 resolution made Iraq liable "for any direct loss, damage, including environmental damage and the depletion of natural resources, or injury to foreign Governments, nationals and corporations, as a result of Iraq's unlawful invasion and occupation of Kuwait".

And Kuwaiti political analyst Dr Ibrahim al-Hadban told Aljazeera.net that there may not be too much sympathy for the plight of Iraqi civilians in his country.

"While the government may accept a delay in compensation, or maybe even a reduction in the amount of compensation awarded by the UN, many Kuwaitis suffered just as much in 1991.

"I expect the private sector in Kuwait and the civilian population may be less likely to listen to campaigners who seek to have compensation stopped."