Expected Council Action
Council members expect to receive a briefing in consultations in June from the Department of Political Affairs on the 35th report of the Secretary-General on Iraq’s compliance with resolution 1284 (1999) regarding the repatriation or return of Kuwaiti and third country nationals or their remains and the return of Kuwaiti property, including archives that had been seized by Iraq. At press time it was unclear who specifically would brief the Council, as the funding for the High-Level Coordinator on Iraq-Kuwait issues (who previously briefed on this subject) was allowed to lapse on 31 December 2012 and no successor mechanism has yet been developed. It was also unclear whether the Council would adopt any outcome addressing such a mechanism.
Key Recent Developments
- appointing a new High-Level Coordinator to replace Gennady Tarasov, who retired on 31 December 2012;
- appointing an interim coordinator;
- folding the mandate of the Coordinator into that of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI); or
- assigning the mandate to someone from UN headquarters.
Recent months have seen Iraq make progress on several issues stemming from its 1990 invasion of Kuwait. The Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Maintenance Project (the reactivation of which was welcomed by the Council in a 1 December 2012 press statement) was successfully completed at the end of March following the demolition of the last remaining Iraqi buildings on the border. The Boundary Maintenance Project was established in 2003 to implement the demarcation of the border as recommended by the UN Boundary Demarcation Commission but has faced repeated delays due to occasional disputes between Iraq and Kuwait regarding the border, and Iraqi unwillingness to remove objects impeding the project. Iraq and Kuwait are currently in discussions on a successor arrangement to the Boundary Maintenance Project, agreement on which would fulfil Iraq’s obligations under resolution 833 regarding the demarcation of the border.
Progress has also been made towards the compensation of those Iraqi citizens relocated from the border area with Kuwait, pursuant to resolution 899. In May, Iraq formally requested that the compensation funds (originally provided by Kuwait) be transferred to it from the UN for distribution to identified beneficiaries. On 17 May the Council approved the transfer via an exchange of letters.
The most recent report of the Secretary-General on UNAMI also detailed advances in the normalisation of relations between Iraq and Kuwait, including the resumption of Iraqi Airways flights to and from Kuwait on 27 February and a visit to Kuwait by the Special Representative of the Secretary-General, Martin Kobler, to discuss outstanding Iraq-Kuwait issues on 5 March.
On 19 May, Iraq announced that the Iraqi and Kuwaiti committees on the missing Kuwaiti national archives had agreed to meet on a regular basis. A new mission of the Tripartite Commission on Iraq-Kuwait missing persons and property (composed of Iraq, Kuwait, the US, the UK, France and Saudi Arabia) is expected to visit Iraq in June.
On the broader political and security situation in Iraq, significant violence continued in May. A wave of bombings across Iraq on 19 and 20 May killed at least 76 people and wounded more than 250. Further attacks on 26 May killed at least 53 people. News reports estimate that in May alone more than 500 people have been killed in sectarian violence in Iraq, bringing the death toll for 2013 to more than 1,500.
Human Rights-Related Developments
On 16 April, the Ministry of Justice announced the execution of 21 individuals under the 2005 anti-terrorism law. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay condemned the execution in a 19 April press release, stressing that the justice system in the country was “too seriously flawed to warrant even a limited application of the death penalty, let alone dozens of executions at a time”. She mentioned confessions obtained under torture and ill-treatment, the lack of due process and the apparent inability of those convicted to exercise the right to seek pardon or commutation of their sentences. She also expressed her concern about the broad scope and wide application of article 4, which condones the death penalty for a range of terrorism-related acts, including some that do not meet the threshold of “most serious crimes” allowing for the imposition of the death penalty under international law. (In 2012, the number of people executed in Iraq was 129.)
The key issue for the Council in June remains whether or not Iraq is making sufficient progress on its current Chapter VII resolutions’ obligations and in its relations with Kuwait.
A closely related issue is the future of the mandate formerly assigned to the High-Level Coordinator and whether the Council is going to follow on any of the options outlined by the Secretary-General.
The Council has several options on Iraq-Kuwait issues and the mandate of the former High-Level Coordinator in June. It could:
- take no action, leaving the Coordinator’s mandate within the purview of the Secretariat;
- resurrect the High-Level Coordinator position, or a similar interim position, via a press or presidential statement; or
- fold the Coordinator’s mandate into the mandate of UNAMI.
Aside from the mandate of the High-Level Coordinator, the Council could also adopt a press statement acknowledging Iraq’s progress on its Chapter VII obligations (especially those related to the demarcation of the border, stemming from resolutions 833 and 899) or adopt a resolution formally transferring Iraq’s outstanding obligations from Chapter VII to Chapter VI (this option remains quite unlikely).
Though there appears to be a great deal of appetite on the Council for downgrading Iraq’s remaining obligations from Chapter VII to Chapter VI, most Council members are sensitive to Kuwait’s position on the matter and are waiting for explicit communication from Kuwait that it is ready to see Iraq exit Chapter VII. Kuwait has agreed in principle that Iraq could be released from its current Chapter VII obligations, but requires assurances that Iraqi progress on its obligations will continue.
The question of the mandate of the High-Level Coordinator, left unresolved in December, remains closely linked to the question of progress on Iraq’s obligations. Several Council members are quite interested in seeing that mandate folded into UNAMI, as the mission, with offices in Kuwait and Iraq, is perhaps best positioned to effectively monitor Iraq-Kuwait issues. Even so, other Council members, especially Russia, appear to be sensitive to Kuwait’s concern that as part of UNAMI, Iraq-Kuwait issues would lack the visibility they currently enjoy, effectively arresting the momentum built up in recent months.
Council members appear to be waiting for the Secretary-General’s recommendations in his June report or a clear signal from Kuwait on this issue. However, certain Council members appear worried by the precedent that might be set by allowing the Secretary-General to decide the fate of a mandate originally established by the Council.
The US is the penholder on Iraq issues in general, and the UK is the penholder on Iraq-Kuwait issues.
UN Documents on Iraq
|Security Council Resolutions|
|25 July 2012 S/RES/2061||The Council unanimously adopted this resolution renewing UNAMI for a further year.|
|17 December 1999 S/RES/1284||This resolution established UNMOVIC and requested the Secretary-General to report to the Council every four months on the compliance by Iraq with its obligations regarding the repatriation or return of all Kuwaiti and third-country nationals.|
|4 March 1994 S/RES/899||This resolution authorised the payment of compensation to private Iraqi citizens relocated following the demarcation of the border between Iraq and Kuwait.|
|27 May 1993 S/RES/833||This resolution welcomed the Secretary-General’s decision for the maintenance of the boundary until other arrangements were made by Iraq and Kuwait.|
|12 March 2013 S/2013/154||This was a report of the Secretary-General on UNAMI.|
|14 December 2012 S/2012/931||This was a report on Iraq/Kuwait missing persons and property.|
|Security Council Letters|
|17 May 2013 S/2013/296||This letter from the president of the Security Council approved the transfer of compensation funds to Iraq for disbursement to farmers affected by the demarcation of the border between Iraq and Kuwait.|
|15 May 2013 S/2013/295||This letter from the Secretary-General proposed the transfer of compensation funds to Iraq for disbursement to farmers affected by the demarcation of the border between Iraq and Kuwait.|
|Security Council Press Statements|
|1 December 2012 SC/10843||The Council welcomed the joint request of Iraq and Kuwait to reactivate the Iraq-Kuwait Boundary Maintenance Project and called on Iraq to complete field maintenance work on the project in a timely manner.|