L. Paul Bremer
Coalition Provisional Authority
Opening of Ministry of Human Rights Building
14 February 2004
Mr. Minister, employees of the new Ministry of Human Rights, ladies and
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
• 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
• 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
Mabruk al Iraq al Jadeed.