UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Sergio Vieira de Mello today recalled that as the inevitability of war in Iraq became inescapable, he had repeatedly warned about the possibility of retribution against, and likely displacement of, the people brought to northern Iraq under Baghdad’s long-standing policy of Arabization.Stressing that although such “flashpoints” could have been avoided, Mr. Vieira de Mello pointed out that in the wake of reports that perhaps hundreds of families had been forcibly expelled from the towns and villages in and around Kirkuk, the problems of which he had warned were now taking place. “Action should be taken now to protect these populations from intimidation, forced expulsion and other abuses,” Mr. Vieira de Mello said, echoing Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s concern that unless the security vacuum that now exists is quickly addressed, there was a very real prospect of population displacement in Iraq. In a statement issued by a UN spokesman in New York last week, the Secretary-General appealed to all concerned to respect fundamental human rights principles, including the right to live free from intimidation and forced expulsion.

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