By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraq:

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The United Nations has advertised new positions in Iraqi Kurdistan:

(Source: UN)

467 Iraqi demonstrators have been killed and more than 9,000 injured since the start of the anti-government protests in early October, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has announced:

With ongoing violence and rising casualties in the context of protests and ahead of further planned demonstrations, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is urging stepped up efforts to break the political deadlock and press ahead with substantial reforms, warning that the use of force costs precious lives and will not end the crisis.

“The continuing loss of young lives and the daily bloodshed is intolerable. At least 467 protesters have been killed and over 9,000 injured since 1 October,” lamented the Special Representative.

“A recent increase in the use of live ammunition by security forces, reported shootings by unidentified gunmen at protesters and the continued targeted killing of demonstrators and human rights defenders are alarming. It is imperative that the Iraqi authorities protect the rights of peaceful protesters and ensure that all use of force complies with international standards. Equally important is full accountability: the perpetrators of unlawful killings and attacks must be brought to justice.”

A climate of fear and distrust will bring nothing but further damage. Political action and progress in the search for solutions must replace indecisiveness to deliver on the many promises and intentions. Building resilience at the state and societal levels is the only way forward to draw the people out of despair and into renewed hope, the Special Representative emphasized.

“Many have sacrificed everything to have their voices heard. Solutions are urgently needed. Iraq cannot afford the ongoing violent oppression nor the political and economic paralysis.”

The Human Rights Office of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) has consistently monitored the human rights situation in the context of the demonstrations. Since the beginning of the protests in October, it issued three reports* documenting human rights violations in the periods from 1 October to 9 December and presenting recommendations to the authorities. Since 17 January, UNAMI has recorded at least 19 demonstrators killed and over 400 injured by security forces in Baghdad, Basra, Dhi Qar, Diyala, Diwaniya, Karbala and Wassit. Preliminary information attributes most deaths and injuries to the use of live ammunition and the impact of tear gas canisters, while additional injuries occurred as a result of security forces beating demonstrators with sticks. Most violence used by security forces occurred in the context of attempts to clear roadblocks or disperse demonstrators.

In Baghdad, efforts by security forces to clear the Mohamed Qassem highway and areas in the vicinity of Tahrir Square using live ammunition and tear gas resulted in at least 11 deaths and 53 injuries. In Nasiriya, Dhi Qar on 25 and 26 January, security forces fired live ammunition and tear gas canisters causing at least three deaths and injuring over 100 protesters. Similarly, in Basra, in the early morning of 25 January, security forces demolished more than 20 tents set up by protesters as part of a sit-in and forced the protesters out of the area. In Karbala, security forces also used violence against protesters, resulting in at least 4 deaths and injury to over 150 others. In Diyala, the use of live ammunition by security forces resulted in the first death attributed to this cause and context in the governorate and injured at least four others.

There were cases of unidentified armed men shooting protesters. This happened on four consecutive nights in Basra from 21 to 25 January, killing two protesters and injuring nine others. In Nasiriya, on the night of 26 to 27 January, a group of armed men of unclear affiliation shot live ammunition at protesters in Haboubi Square, killing at least one protester and injuring four more, and set fire to several protestor tents.

Targeted killings continue against demonstrators and activists. Since 1 October, at least 28 incidents have taken place in which persons associated with demonstrations, either as participants, journalists covering the protests or prominent activists, have been targeted by armed men or improvised explosive devices, resulting in 18 deaths and the injury of at least 13 others. The cases include the targeted killing of two Dijlah Television reporters in Basra on 10 January. In Missan alone, credible reports indicate seven incidents in which civil society activists were shot at by armed men, resulting in two deaths and the injury of five others.

UNAMI also continues to track and monitor reports of physical attacks against demonstrators, including stabbings, cases of missing demonstrators and activists, and incidents of threat and intimidation.

Stressing the futility of violence in responding to the protests, Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert said all efforts should instead focus on how to fully implement reforms and initiate a constructive dialogue to tackle the country’s problems in a spirit of unity.

“It is high time to restore confidence by setting aside partisanship, acting in the interest of the country and its people. Hard work and goodwill gestures will resonate with the people, and will be met in kind, strengthening the country’s resilience as it seeks to emerge stronger from this crisis.”

*links to the three previous reports: https://bit.ly/2OevRx0

(Source: UN)

UN Iraq Representative urges renewed push for reform, calls for demonstrations to remain peaceful

With public demonstrations across many parts of Iraq in their fourth month, the Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, is urging a renewed push for reform and expressing concern about ongoing human rights violations.

She emphasizes the importance of pressing ahead to meet the needs of the Iraqi people: building resilience at the state and societal level is challenging but essential work.

“In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from all walks of life have taken to the streets to voice their hopes for better times, free from corruption, partisan interests and foreign interference. The killing and injury of peaceful protesters, combined with long years of undelivered promises, have resulted in a major crisis of confidence.”

Two months after the Prime Minister announced his resignation, political leaders remain unable to agree on the way forward. While there was public acknowledgement by all actors that urgent reform is needed, it is now high time to put these words into action and to avoid further derailing of these protests by those pursuing their own objectives, not wishing well for this country and its people.

“Any steps taken so far to address the people’s concerns will remain hollow, if they are not completed. Domestic unity, cohesion and determination are urgently necessary to build resilience against narrow partisan interests, foreign interference and/or criminal elements which actively seek to hinder Iraq’s stability.”

The recent escalation in regional tensions has understandably taken much attention away from urgent unfinished domestic business. However, geopolitical developments must not eclipse the rightful demands of the Iraqi people. This will only further fuel public anger and distrust.

The Special Representative urges the Iraqi authorities to do everything to protect peaceful demonstrators. “Violent suppression of peaceful protesters is intolerable and must be avoided at all costs. Nothing is more damaging than a climate of fear. Accountability and justice for victims is critical to building trust, legitimacy and resilience.

She calls on protesters to remain peaceful, avoiding counterproductive violence and destruction of property.

(Source: UN)

Kirkuk: Youth come together to discuss issues of reconciliation and stability

Twenty-four young women and men, representing the youth of Kirkuk Governorate, recently met in Kirkuk city to discuss what the youth see as key issues in the context of their Governorate.

In the presence of the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Kirkuk Office, Ms. Laura Romanazzi, the Acting Governor of Kirkuk, Mr. Rakan Al-Jubouri, several local officials, politicians and UNAMI representatives from the Office of Political Affairs, the energetic and inspiring youth delegates discussed issues pertaining to unemployment, youth participation in decision making and supporting youth projects, the current security situation in the country, provision of basic services including the right to education, combatting corruption and the role of oversight institutions.

In her address to the workshop, Ms. Laura Romanazzi said that Kirkuk was “a Governorate which showcases all of the complexity, diversity, potential, conflict and promise of Iraq”. Therefore, “inclusive and honest discussions must take place between communities to address past legacies”. This, she added, “cannot be done without the political, social and economic participation of young people – and your involvement in reconciliation efforts to bridge differences and address grievances”.

The youth workshop held from 13-15 December 2019 was organised by UNAMI, in cooperation with the Coexistence and Social Peace Committee under the auspices of the Office of the Prime Minister, and the Iraqi Al-Amal Association. The activity is in line with UNAMI’s mandate to support youth and their valuable contributions to the country.

(Source: UN)

The following Security Council press statement was issued on Friday by Council President Kelly Craft (United States):

The members of the Security Council welcomed efforts for an inclusive dialogue between the Government and people of Iraq to urgently deliver reforms aimed at addressing legitimate demands over economic opportunity, governance and electoral legislation.  The members of the Security Council reiterated their support for the independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and prosperity of Iraq.

The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the loss of life of those demonstrating and at the killing, maiming and arbitrary arrests of unarmed demonstrators.  The members of the Security Council acknowledged the right to peaceful assembly in Iraq and called for Iraqi authorities to promptly conduct transparent investigations into the violence against those demonstrating.

They expressed concern over the killing or maiming of unarmed demonstrators and security forces.  The members of the Security Council expressed concern over the involvement of armed groups in extrajudicial killings and kidnappings.  The members of the Security Council called for maximum restraint and urged all to refrain from violence or the destruction of critical infrastructure.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their support for efforts led by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and Special Representative of the Secretary-General Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, in accordance with resolution 2470 (2019), to support and assist the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people with inclusive political dialogue, national- and community-level reconciliation, and electoral assistance to the Government of Iraq and Independent High Electoral Commission.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their support for Iraq’s continued post-conflict recovery, stabilization, reconstruction, reconciliation, development, and reform efforts to meet the needs of all Iraqis and reaffirmed the security of Iraq, particularly in light of Iraq’s territorial victory over Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh).

The members of the Security Council recognized the importance of the Government of Iraq upholding the values set forth in the Iraqi Constitution and responding to the needs of all Iraqis, including women, youth, children, displaced persons and persons belonging to all ethnic and religious groups.

(Source: UN)

The following Security Council press statement was issued on Friday by Council President Kelly Craft (United States):

The members of the Security Council welcomed efforts for an inclusive dialogue between the Government and people of Iraq to urgently deliver reforms aimed at addressing legitimate demands over economic opportunity, governance and electoral legislation.  The members of the Security Council reiterated their support for the independence, sovereignty, unity, territorial integrity and prosperity of Iraq.

The members of the Security Council expressed grave concern at the loss of life of those demonstrating and at the killing, maiming and arbitrary arrests of unarmed demonstrators.  The members of the Security Council acknowledged the right to peaceful assembly in Iraq and called for Iraqi authorities to promptly conduct transparent investigations into the violence against those demonstrating.

They expressed concern over the killing or maiming of unarmed demonstrators and security forces.  The members of the Security Council expressed concern over the involvement of armed groups in extrajudicial killings and kidnappings.  The members of the Security Council called for maximum restraint and urged all to refrain from violence or the destruction of critical infrastructure.

The members of the Security Council reaffirmed their support for efforts led by the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and Special Representative of the Secretary-General Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, in accordance with resolution 2470 (2019), to support and assist the Government of Iraq and the Iraqi people with inclusive political dialogue, national- and community-level reconciliation, and electoral assistance to the Government of Iraq and Independent High Electoral Commission.

The members of the Security Council reiterated their support for Iraq’s continued post-conflict recovery, stabilization, reconstruction, reconciliation, development, and reform efforts to meet the needs of all Iraqis and reaffirmed the security of Iraq, particularly in light of Iraq’s territorial victory over Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as Da’esh).

The members of the Security Council recognized the importance of the Government of Iraq upholding the values set forth in the Iraqi Constitution and responding to the needs of all Iraqis, including women, youth, children, displaced persons and persons belonging to all ethnic and religious groups.

(Source: UN)

UNAMI launches dedicated reporting e-mail for human rights violations

To further strengthen and expand its fact-finding efforts on human rights violations and abuses, particularly in relation to the ongoing protests, UNAMI has set up a dedicated e-mail address: humanrightsiraq@un.org.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert (pictured):

I encourage anyone with relevant information – whether witness or victim accounts, photos or video footage – to send them to us at this address.

“We continue to monitor and document human rights violations, cases of abduction, threats and intimidation country-wide as well as to raise them with relevant authorities.

In the last two weeks UNAMI has issued two special reports outlining serious human rights violations and abuses in the context of the demonstrations and making specific recommendations to the government to protect the rights of peaceful demonstrators seeking change.

All information received on the dedicated e-mail will be handled with strict confidentiality.

(Source: UNAMI)

By John Lee.

On Sunday, the UN issued the following statement on the crisis facing Iraq:

Over the past weeks, demonstrations erupted in Baghdad and other governorates in Iraq. Protester demands cover a wide spectrum of issues, including economic growth and employment, reliable public services, prudent and impartial governance, an end to corruption, credible elections as well as broader reform of the political system – including amendments to the constitution.

An accumulation of frustrations about the lack of progress in the last 16 years is clearly perceptible, and with rising numbers of deaths and injured (both protesters and members of the Iraqi Security Forces) a climate of anger and fear has set in. The Iraqi people cannot afford to be held back by the past nor by partisan interests.

Rising hope asks for a leap forward, including the understanding that – in today’s digital age – daily life has moved online. Meanwhile, the risk of ‘spoilers’ hijacking peaceful demonstrations is increasing and potentially derailing any attempt at genuine change. Time is therefore of the essence, as are tangible results.

To start with, and following consultations with a wide range of Iraqi parties, actors and authorities (including the three Presidencies, the Supreme Judicial Council, protesters and union representatives), the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) proposes the following principles and measures:

PRINCIPLES

The following principles apply to all parties at all times:

  1. Protect the right to life above all.
  2. Guarantee the right to peaceful assembly, demonstration and freedom of expression,
    as granted in the constitution.
  3. Practice maximum restraint in the handling of the protests, including no use of live ammunition, ban the improper use of non-lethal devices (such as tear gas canisters).
  4. Deliver full accountability for perpetrators and redress for victims.
  5. Act in keeping with the law, including in regard to public and private properties.

MEASURES

Immediate measures (less than a week) include:

  1. Release all peaceful demonstrators detained since 1 October, in accordance with the law.
  2. No peaceful demonstrators shall be targeted.
  3. Initiate full investigation of cases of abduction (including by making available CCTV footage), and reveal the identity of those responsible.
  4. Accelerate the identification and prosecution of those responsible for targeting demonstrators.
  5. Prosecute and punish those responsible for the excessive use of force and/or other violent acts, in accordance with the law.
  6. Publicly call on all regional and international parties not to interfere in Iraq’s internal affairs, respecting its sovereignty.

Short term measures (within one week to two weeks) include:

  1. Electoral reform: With the technical support of the UN, a single legal framework shall be finalized. Soon after, the framework shall be submitted to the Council of Representatives (CoR). The parliamentary procedure shall be completed as soon as possible.
  2. Security Sector Reform: Executive Order 237 shall be fully implemented without delay. Any weapons outside state control shall be prohibited. Any outlaw armed entity or rogue element shall be considered illegal and it is the state’s responsibility to take them on.
  3. Corruption: The political elite shall lead by example, for instance by publicly declaring their assets – at home and abroad, held under their own name or another. Additionally, political parties/blocs and movements shall abolish their economic committees.

Medium term measures (within one to three months) include:

  1. Constitution: With the technical support of the UN, the Constitutional Review Committee shall continue its work. Any amendment to the constitution shall be put to referendum by the people of Iraq.
  2. Corruption: The Commission of Integrity shall submit corruption cases to the High Judicial Council or the Central Anti-Corruption Court. The Central Anti-Corruption Court shall handle corruption cases at all levels of the state. All corrupt officials will be held accountable and prosecuted.
  3. Enactment of laws: The Government shall send the following draft laws to the CoR, and the CoR shall complete its due process as soon as possible:
    1. A law addressing the principle: ‘Where did you get this from?
    2. The Federal Court Law
    3. The Social Security Law
    4. Law on resolving the Housing Crisis
    5. The Oil and Gas (Hydrocarbon) Law
    6. Amending the Law on Encouraging Investments and Public-Private Sector Partnership
    7. The Council of Ministers and Ministries Law
    8. The Reconstruction Council Law

(Source: UNAMI)

UNAMI has found that serious human rights violations and abuses continued to occur during the second wave of demonstrations that started in Iraq on 25 October.

A second report, prepared by the UNAMI Human Rights Office, was published today [5th November]. It follows an earlier special report which covered the 1-9 October protests and was published on 22 October.

The latest report indicates that demonstration-related violence from 25 October to 4 November caused at least 97 further deaths, and thousands of injuries. Although Iraqi security forces displayed more restraint than in the early October protests, particularly in Baghdad, the unlawful use of lethal and less-lethal weapons by security forces and armed elements requires urgent attention.

The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, stated: “This report also highlights areas where immediate action is needed to stop the vicious circle of violence, and stresses once again the imperative of accountability”.

The report attributes at least 16 deaths – and many serious injuries – to demonstrators being struck by tear gas canisters. “There is no justification for security forces to fire tear gas canisters or sound and flash devices directly at unarmed demonstrators”, said Danielle Bell, Chief of the UNAMI Human Rights Office.

The report furthermore highlights concerns regarding continued efforts to suppress media coverage as well as an ongoing block on social media. Special Representative Hennis-Plasschaert added: “We must recognise that in today’s digital age, daily life has moved online. A blanket shutdown of internet and social media is not only disruptive to the way people live their lives and do business: it infringes freedom of expression”.

Download HUMAN RIGHTS SPECIAL REPORT