Expected Council Action
In August, the Special Representative and head of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), Ján Kubiš, is scheduled to brief the Council on the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI and the most recent developments. A civil society briefer is also a possibility.
On 14 June, the Council renewed UNAMI’s mandate for ten months in resolution 2421. The mandate expires on 31 May 2019.
Key Recent Developments
Parliamentary elections were held on 12 May in a mostly peaceful and orderly manner, but they were marked by a low voter turnout of 44.5 percent. No party managed to gain a majority of seats. Prominent Shi’a cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance won 54 seats out of 329. However, he will not be prime minister, as he did not run for that position. The Fatah Coalition of Hadi al-Amiri—the leader of the Badr organisation, the political arm of a Tehran-backed Shi’a militia—came second with 47 seats. Al-Sadr, who in the past has been an outspoken critic of Iranian involvement in Iraq, announced the formation of a coalition government with al-Amiri. The Nasr Coalition led by current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi placed third, winning 42 seats. Following reports of fraud, the Council of Representatives (the Iraqi parliament) mandated a full recount, which was rejected by the prime minister, who maintained that such an order was not within the parliament’s constitutional role. The Federal Supreme Court (FSC) was petitioned to give a legal opinion on the constitutionality of the parliament’s legislation. In its 21 June judgment, the FSC ruled in favour of the parliament. The recount started on 3 July, but at press time it had not yet been completed, with no official election result declared, and therefore no new government formed.
Starting in early July, protests erupted in the south of Iraq, giving voice to the long-standing frustration of the Iraqi population over a lack of basic services and infrastructure, such as water and electricity, as a result of neglect by the government. Late in July, protests had spread to cities in other regions, including Baghdad. The demonstrations were publicly backed by al-Sadr, who argued that politicians should address the protesters’ concerns before forming a new government.
Iraqi government forces defeated the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in December 2017 after three years of fighting that resulted in massive destruction and the internal displacement of over five million people. In September 2017, the Council adopted resolution 2379, which requested the Secretary-General to establish an investigative team to support Iraqi domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable for crimes it committed in the country, by collecting, storing and preserving in Iraq evidence of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide committed by ISIL. On 31 May, the Secretary-General appointed Karim Asad Ahmad Khan of the UK as Special Adviser and head of the investigative team. He assumed his position in July and is soon expected to conduct a first visit to Iraq, where he will be based.
On 14 June, the Security Council renewed the mandate of UNAMI until 31 May 2019, ahead of its 31 July expiry. It seemed that the penholder, the US, was aiming for an early adoption in anticipation of a possible rise in political tensions in the aftermath of the elections. For the first time since UNAMI’s role was expanded in 2007, its mandate was changed. UNAMI’s role in advancing an inclusive political dialogue and reconciliation was prioritised. Language was also added on UNAMI’s role in advising, supporting and assisting Iraq in facilitating regional dialogue and cooperation on issues of environment and water; promoting accountability; supporting the work of the UN investigative team; assisting Iraq and the UN Country Team in strengthening child protection; approaching gender as a cross-cutting issue; and advising and assisting Iraq in ensuring the participation, involvement and representation of women at all levels. The resolution encourages all relevant UN actors to implement the recommendations of the independent external assessment of UNAMI and requests that the Secretary-General report on the relevant actions taken in his quarterly reports. To align UNAMI’s authorisation with the UN budget cycle, the mandate will be renewed in ten months instead of a year. The text of the resolution was streamlined significantly by cutting the preambular section from several pages to just three paragraphs.
On the issue of the missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives, the latest report of the Secretary-General points out a few constructive developments, such as ongoing discussions between Iraq and Kuwait on setting a date for the official handover of already-located Kuwaiti property.
Human Rights-Related Developments
During its 38th session, the Human Rights Council (HRC) considered the report of the special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnès Callamard, on her mission to Iraq from 14 to 23 November 2017 (A/HRC/38/44/Add.1). The report noted as problematic the absence of steps taken by the government to incorporate international crimes in its domestic legislation pursuant to Security Council resolution 2379, which said the people of Iraq deserve a legal framework and a judicial response that “properly reflect the nature of the crimes committed, which are on par with atrocity crimes investigated and tried in other parts of the world”. The report said international actors should provide technical, financial and strategic support to the relevant authorities to support the implementation of recommendations related to criminal legal reforms, ratification of international treaties, accountability for crimes committed by ISIL and all other parties to the conflict, transitional justice, and gender-based crimes.
Issues and Options
The Council will closely follow developments related to the current post-electoral period and the formation of a new government. Looking ahead, the Council could consider conducting a visiting mission to Iraq to show support for the new government after its formation is complete and to get a better understanding of current challenges on the ground.
As for accountability efforts, the Council will continue to monitor developments regarding the investigative team established by resolution 2379. Some members, especially those opposed to the death penalty, continue to have concerns about the possibility of evidence shared by the team being used in criminal proceedings in which capital punishment could be imposed. The Council could consider inviting the recently appointed Special Adviser to a meeting to get a better understanding of progress in forming his team and commencing its work.
Council members support UNAMI, and negotiations on the mandate renewal appeared largely uncontentious. A recurring issue was a push by some members for stronger language on accountability, but it appears that others, including the penholder, did not consider that to be a priority at this point. Since the independent external assessment was conducted, Council members have had diverging views on how to address its recommendations. As a supporter of independent external assessments, the US secured language encouraging the UN to take action on the assessment’s recommendations and for the Secretary-General to report on that action.
The US is the penholder on Iraq issues in general, and the UK is the penholder on Iraq-Kuwait issues. Poland is the chair of the 1518 Iraq Sanctions Committee.
UN DOCUMENTS ON IRAQ
|Security Council Resolutions|
|14 June 2018 S/RES/2421||This was a resolution extending the mandate of UNAMI until 31 May 2019.|
|8 December 2017 S/RES/2390||The Council unanimously adopted resolution 2390, which indicated that measures imposed under Chapter VII of the UN Charter regarding the oil-for-food programme had been fully implemented.|
|21 September 2017 S/RES/2379||This resolution established an investigative team tasked with collecting, storing and preserving evidence of ISIL crimes in Iraq.|
|10 July 2018 S/2018/683||This was the Secretary-General’s 19th report on the issue of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives.|
|9 July 2018 S/2018/677||This was the Secretary-General’s latest report on UNAMI.|
|Security Council Letters|
|9 February 2018 S/2018/118||This was a letter from the Secretary-General to the Council containing the terms of reference for the investigative team to support domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable by collecting, preserving and storing evidence of war crimes committed by ISIL in Iraq.|
|15 November 2017 S/2017/966||This was a letter containing the executive summary, observations and full set of recommendations of an independent external assessment of the structure and staffing of UNAMI submitted by the team of experts.|
|Sanctions Committee Documents|
|13 July 2018 SC/13423||This was a press release on the removal of two entities from the sanctions list.|
|5 July 2018 SC/13409||This was a press release on the removal of one entity from the sanctions list.|
|7 June 2018 SC/13372||https://www.un.org/press/en/2018/sc13372.doc.htm…|
|22 December 2017 S/2017/1078||This was the annual report of the 1518 Sanctions Committee.|
|Security Council Meeting Records|
|14 June 2018 S/PV.8285||This was the meeting at which the Council renewed the mandate of UNAMI until 31 May 2019.|