Iraq's Post-Withdrawal Crisis, Update 17
Members Appointed To Human Rights Commission
After a year of processing applicants, parliament successfully appointed the commissioners for the newly created Independent Human Rights Commission on April 9 to monitor violations committed inside Iraq. Describing the vote as a “landmark achievement,” Special Representative of the UN to Iraq Martin Kobler said, “For the first time in its history, there is an independent national institution to promote and protect the rights of all Iraq's people, irrespective of their national, ethnic, religious, gender, or other differences.” The selection process was handled by a special committee that processed 3,085 applications for the appointment of eleven permanent commissioners, headed by Salama al-Khafaji, a Shi’a dentist who also served on Iraq’s interim Governing Council. According to an Iraqi lawmaker, the body will make “independent decisions” and “will issue annual reports to parliament and to international organizations.”
Parliament Speaker Reminds Maliki about Role
A letter from the office of Speaker Osama al-Nujaifi was reportedly sent to the Iraqi cabinet this week, reminding the executive branch that dictating monetary policy is not under its authority. The letter comes after reports of another attempt by the prime minister last month to assert control over the affairs of the Iraq Central Bank, despite assurances by Maliki of the body’s independence. In January 2011, the Iraqi judiciary ruled in favor of placing the Central Bank under the purview of the Council of Ministers rather than under Parliament.
Hashemi Goes to Turkey
Vice President Tariq al-Hashemi arrived in Turkey on April 9 in what is his third “official visit” to the region after being charged with supporting terrorist acts by the Ministry of Interior last December. His trip to Turkey comes after a visit to Qatar and Saudi Arabia in which he sought support over his dispute with Maliki regarding the charges brought up against him. Hashemi will reportedly meet with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday. Both Saudi Arabia and Qatar have rejected requests made by Baghdad to hand over Hashemi to Iraqi authorities.
Barzani Threatens Referendum
In an interview to the London-based Al-Hayat on April 8, Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) President Massoud Barzani stated that “Iraq is moving towards a catastrophe, a return to dictatorship.” Barzani warned that if this trend continues, the Kurds will have to determine their own path forward, suggesting a move toward independence. “This is not blackmail or a threat. I’m serious,” Barzani said. “I will put a referendum to the Kurdish people. Whatever the price, we will never accept a return to dictatorship in Iraq.” Barzani stated that it was “unacceptable” for the prime minister to own a monopoly of the security sector. These statements come days after Barzani met with President Obama and Vice President Biden at the White House. In Baghdad, aides to Maliki denounced Barzani’s statements and called them a “non-understandable escalation.”
IHEC Chief Arrested
On Thursday, the chairman of Iraq’s Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) was arrested after an appearance at the Integrity Commission court. According to Judge Qassem Abboudi, IHEC chief Faraj al-Haidari and board member Karim al-Tamimi were taken into custody for paying a bonus of $130 to an IHEC employee. But a statement by the spokesman of Iraq’s Higher Judicial Council said, “The decision to detain Faraj al-Haidari and Karim al-Tamimi was based on (them paying) real estate registration employees to register pieces of land for them, from the budget of the electoral commission.” According to an IHEC member, the investigation into the commission is being pushed by State of Law MP Hanan al-Fatlawi in order to intimidate IHEC. Ali al-Musawi, Maliki’s media advisor, stated that the investigation was “a judicial issue related to the integrity commission and the judiciary,” and not a matter for the prime minister. According to reports, Haidari and Tamimi are expected to leave the prison on Sunday due to the fact that a bail was not made during office hours on Thursday, the last day of the work week, leaving them to spend the weekend in custody. On July 30, 2011, the State of Law coalition unsuccessfully pushed for a vote in parliament to withdraw confidence from Haidari’s position, on grounds of IHEC corruption. Maliki continues to be deeply suspicious of IHEC after Iraqiyya won the March 2010 election over his State of Law coalition.
For a comprehensive look at the first two months since U.S. troops left Iraq, read Ramzy Mardini's backgrounder, " Iraq's Recurring Political Crisis." To read a transcript from the Feb. 29 event "Policing Iraq," click here, and to read a transcript from the Feb. 16 event "Iraq After the U.S. Withdrawal," click here. To read past and future weekly updates, click here.