Vienna, 13 May 2004 - In view of the ever more detailed accusations of torture coming to light against members of the US military in Iraq and Afghanistan, Minister for Foreign Affairs Benita Ferrero-Waldner, in informal talks during an EU election campaign event in Salzburg today, expressed her dismay at the increasingly detailed photos and reports of the degrading treatment, torture and humiliation of detainees in Iraqi military prisons by members of the occupying forces. "These incidents must be vigorously condemned and the perpetrators brought to justice", insisted Ferrero-Waldner, who in this context renewed her call upon the USA to accede to the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court. At the same time Ferrero-Waldner condemned the abhorrent public execution of an American prisoner in Iraq. "I deplore this act of barbarism. There must be an end to these brutalities and atrocities", said the Foreign Minister.
Ferrero-Waldner also welcomed the US Administration's declared intention to launch a full criminal inquiry into the incidents in the Iraqi prisons. "In my view this is all the more important given the fact that the investigations carried out so far, even according to statements by leading representatives of the US government, have shown that these abuses were carried out on a much wider and more systematic scale than originally assumed. I therefore reiterate the call I made on 5 May for compliance with the internationally recognised standards of international humanitarian law and respect for the universally applicable human rights, even in times of crisis", declared Ferrero-Waldner.
The Foreign Minister went on to state that the latest altercations and violent excesses in the Middle East and the occupied Palestinian territories demonstrate "how imperative it is that we finally undertake peace and stabilisation efforts aimed at a permanent resolution of the conflicts and problems of this region which is of such great importance to Europe". The situation in the Middle East will also be on the agenda of the forthcoming EU Council of Foreign Ministers, at which Federal Minister Ferrero-Waldner expects "clear words from the EU regarding these processes".
Ferrero-Waldner continued: "in a few days' time the long-planned summit of the Arab heads of state and government will take place in Tunis, at which the EU also intends to submit a proposal for the establishment of a joint Strategic Partnership aimed at creating stability, security, prosperity and peace throughout the entire Near and Middle East region. The recent events and manifold expressions of hate and violence do not make this project an easy one. However, this Strategic Partnership is in the European interest, too. The Arabic and Islamic world lies right on our doorstep. We are united by the aim of combating the international terrorism which has recently claimed so many innocent victims in Madrid, Casablanca, Istanbul and Riyadh. But we will not succeed in this struggle if we fail to eradicate the roots of the problem, which lie in poverty and ignorance."