UN ends compensation mission after Iraq pays $52.4bn to Kuwait over 1991 invasion

1991 invasion led to Kuwait's isolation from the international community

A shopkeeper and his son watch a televised speech by then-Iraqi president Saddam Hussein in January, 1997. Reuters
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A UN body established almost 31 years ago to settle $52.4 billion of claims made for damage inflicted by Iraq during the 1990 Kuwait invasion has officially closed.

Officials said on Wednesday that the UN Compensation Commission's mandate had been fulfilled. Iraq made the final payment, of $44 million, on January 13.

In August 1990, former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein ordered his army to invade Kuwait and seize what he described as "Iraq's 19th province", before being pushed back seven months later by a US-led coalition.

Retreating Iraqi forces blew up an estimated 750 oil wells, creating one of the largest environmental disasters in history and effectively destroying Kuwait's main source of income. Thousands of people were killed and Kuwait says at least 605 citizens remain unaccounted for.

The UN body was created as a subsidiary organ of the UN Security Council under Security Council resolution 687 (1991) to process claims and pay compensation for damage suffered as a direct result of Iraq's invasion.

The money was directed to compensate people, companies and governments who could prove their losses.

"With the final payment of compensation made on 13 January, 2022, all compensation awarded by the Commission has now been paid in full," the UN Compensation Commission (UNCC) said.

"The Government of Iraq has fulfilled its international obligations to compensate all claimants awarded compensation by the Commission for losses and damages suffered as a direct result of Iraq’s unlawful invasion of Kuwait," the body in Geneva said after a meeting.

The US ambassador to the UN in Geneva, Bathsheba Crocker, said: "We commend Iraq for completing payments for all UNCC claims, a historic achievement."

Mr Crocker had a meeting with Qahtan Al Janabi, Iraqi under secretary for multilateral and legal affairs, and other diplomats before Wednesday's meeting.

About 2.7 million claims, with a value of $352.5bn, were lodged but the UNCC approved payment of $52.4bn covering 1.5 million successful claims.

The largest claim approved by the UNCC was for $14.7bn in damages incurred by the Kuwait Petroleum Corporation after departing Iraqi troops set fire to oil wells.

In 2014, the payments were suspended when ISIS took over large areas of Iraq but were resumed in 2018, after the group's defeat.

Updated: February 10, 2022, 9:54 AM