Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq to Hold Referendum

By Justin Santabarbara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East 

KIRKUK, Iraq The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) of Iraq has elected to hold a non-binding referendum signaling its desire to provincially separate from the central Iraqi regime. The referendum is scheduled to be put to a vote on 25 September. The independence referendum has gained its most support over the last couple of months as Iraq continues its counterterrorism-minded overtaking of provincial and regional governments. Moreover, the referendum is facing much criticism from both the central Iraqi government and the nearby Turks. The central Iraqi government view the measure as an impingement upon their regional control in northern Iraq, especially because the referendum expresses intention to reject central Iraqi control of the security forces and recruit, train and develop an exclusively Kurdish security apparatus. The Turks view the referendum as granting empowerment to the minority Kurdish political parties and forcing terrorists to seek more readily available opportunities in Turkey. The primary opposition again refers to the weakening of Turkey’s counterterrorism apparatus.

Kurdish Regional Government President, Massoud Barzani. Photo Courtesy of Reuters.

The KRG President, Massoud Bazani, has expressed the intention to move forward with the referendum, despite its mass criticism. In speaking to Kurds on 24 September, Barzani told Kurds that the future of the Kurdish people depends upon the passage of the referendum. Barzani continued that the referendum would give the KRG important standing to continue negotiations with the Iraqi government. Barzani concluded that the Kurds currently maintain the most bargaining power since their ousting by the Hussein regime. As momentum continues to build, the passage of the referendum is important because it allows the government to continue to forge relationships with Baghdad, while also building the governmental institutions that are central to success and stability. Barzani, whose tenure began in 2005, urged his commitment to recruit Kurdish forces and receive international aid and training.

Counterterrorism remains at the forefront of both criticism and support for the referendum. While Barzani claims that the ability to recruit and develop independent security forces will allow for a more specialized focus in repelling ISIS fighters from the region. Conversely, the Iraqi central government disagrees in saying that independent security forces will not be well equipped nor prepared to endure the challenges of repelling ISIS fighters. Moreover, the time lapse in acquiring and building the security apparatus lends itself to a void in time, for which terrorists can take advantage, especially when such a schedule is well promulgated. With the referendum looming, its determination can ultimately change the mechanisms with which the Middle East combats ISIS and other regional terrorists. The United States has publicly denounced the referendum, calling it illegitimate.

For more information, please see:

U.S. Department of State – Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government’s Referendum – 25 September 2017

Aljazeera News – Barzani to Kurds: Vote in Referendum to Secure Future – 24 September 2017

Reuters – Kurds Stick with Independence Vote – 24 September 2017

Aljazeera News – Barzani: Kurd Region Poll to Occur Despite Opposition – 23 September 2017

Turkish government continues journalistic suppression, prosecution of reporters

By: Justin D. Santabarbara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East 

ISTANBUL, Turkey – On 2 September, Turkish security officials arrested Çagdas Erdogan for allegedly photographing the National Intelligence Agency building. Upon the initial court appearance on 3 September, Turkish officials accused Erdogan of being a member of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). The PKK has long been categorized as a domestic terrorist organization by the Turkish government. Moreover, the charges against Erdogan are tailed toward committing acts of terrorism as a member of the PKK, rather than a photojournalist who took illegal pictures. Moreover, Turkish prosecutors have carefully made the distinction between the charges placed against Erdogan and less severe “mistakes”.

Turkish photojournalist Cagdas Erdogan. Photo courtesy of Twitter @cgd_erd.

The International Committee to Protect Journalists has vocally expressed its displeasure with the investigation. “Photographing a building is not even a crime, much less an act of terrorism,” exclaimed the Committee’s Executive Director, Robert Mahony, at a recent press conference. Additionally, the International Committee to Protect Journalists has launched a number of other initiatives, including appealing to the international human rights community for support and requesting that sanctions be placed against the Turkish government for suppressing members of the media. Further, Erdogan’s extensive photojournalistic coverage of the Kurdish conflict is said to have subjected him to additional scrutiny. Aside from his alleged membership in the PKK, Erdogan is said to have been critical of the Turkish government’s treatment of the Kurdish population and the rejection of their participation in the policymaking process. Erdogan’s work is not only highly critical of the collective Turkish government, but also the security forces’ gross violation of human rights in the Kurdish regions – alleging the involvement of enforced disappearances and torturous detainment of Kurds, regardless of their purported membership in the PKK.

Erdogan’s prosecution marks the continuation of a concerted effort by the Turkish government to suppress journalistic interests under a veil of national security. There is little determinative evidence of a time frame for prosecutions against journalists. For example, Turkish prosecutors just tried thirty journalists after they were held for 414 days after their arrest. Although the trials continue to be pending, past cases have shown that prosecutors often seek lengthy prison terms, despite criticism from the international community.

Though the majority of the cases receive adverse dispositions, there are limited instances in which the international pressures influence a humanitarian release, such as the release of French journalist Loup Bureau on 18 September, who spent seven weeks in Turkey after his arrest for criticism of the Turkish government. Although the future remains uncertain for Erdogan, an intense effort by the international community has shown to have positive effects, when conducted appropriately. It will be important to note how long the Turkish government waits before progressing in the trial.

For more information, please see:

France 24 – French journalist Loup Bureau arrives home after being released from Turkish jail – 18 September 2017

Turkish Minute – 30 Zaman journalists appear in court after 414 day detention – 18 September 2017

British Journal of Photography – Cagdas Erdogan arrested in Istanbul – 14 September 2017


After regaining Mosul, Iraq continues steadfast prosecution of ISIS

By:Justin D. Santabarbara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Iraqi Security Forces Detain a suspected ISIS fighter (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch). 

Since the Iraqi government regained control of Mosul and much of its northern provinces from the Islamic State in recent weeks, much emphasis has been placed on rebuilding the punitive institutions of government. In rebuilding its criminal justice capacity, Iraq has sought the counsel of the United Nations Human Rights reports, which began implicating the Islamic State human rights abuses in 2015. Together, with independent militia groups, Iraq’s Executive Office, under Haider Al-Abadi and the United Nations, launched an investigatory campaign in 2016. In August 2017, the Iraqi government charged a number of ISIS fighters in absentia with crimes against humanity. Al-Abadi is expected to formally address the United Nations Security Council in the coming weeks. He will likely request that the Security Council adopt a formal resolution to aid in the charging and capture of ISIS fighters.

The Iraqi government and the United Nations have focused the majority of its attention on balancing the sectarian divisions that continued to exist throughout the country. Since the Islamic State divided much of Iraq, the Shia-backed Iraqi military was forced to alienate many of its previous Sunni allies in pursuit of repelling ISIS. Additionally, Yazidis and Kurds have been historically persecuted by both Sunni and Shia. Until Al-Abadi gained the aid of western military forces in recovering Mosul, much of the Northern provinces were neglected, which left Yazidis and Kurds with little support. Al-Abadi’s most arduous challenge will continue to be regaining the trust of these religious sects, while also being successful in repelling ISIS fighters from the region. Human Rights Watch has been highly critical of the Iraqi government’s response to many of these groups, citing their continued detention and torturing of minority sects as a mechanism for screening their loyalties to ISIS.

The Iraqi investigation has faced much criticism from Human Rights Watch. It reports that ISIS fighters continue to be tried arbitrarily and with prejudice. While the imperative for national security remains a central priority for the government, Human Rights Watch has nearly 2,000 trials that have universally resulted in convictions and stringent sentences. Moreover, Human Rights Watch reports that Iraqi security forces have begun prosecuting lawyers, both domestic and international, that are representing the alleged ISIS fighters. Additionally, Iraqi courts do not issue different sentences for minor involvement or otherwise. The sentences have near universally been undisclosed, or death. Iraq continues its roundup by seeking additional avenues of criminal conduct. Among them include the possibility of charging doctors and other officials working under the Islamic State, but not directly toward their combative interests.

For more information, please see:

CBC News – Sectarian divisions exploited by ISIS still endure in Iraq – 5 September 2017

Human Rights First – Iraq Finally Holds ISIS Responsible for Crimes Against Humanity – 1 September 2017 

Human Rights Watch – The Justice Question After ISIS – 25 August 2017

Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant Claims Responsibility for the Egypt Bus Attack that Killed Christians

By: Yamillet Brizuela
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

MINYA, Egypt –  The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (“ISIL”) on Saturday, May 27 claimed responsibility for the attack on buses transporting Coptic Christians in Egypt that occurred earlier. These Coptic Christian bus passengers were on their way to volunteer at the monastery of Saint Samuel the Confessor. This attack killed 29 men and children and wounded at least another 25.

Relatives of victims mourned on Friday, May 26, during a funeral service for those killed by the attack on a Coptic Christian caravan near Minya, Egypt. Photo courtesy of AP.

The eyewitnesses described that the attack began with gunmen shooting the windows of the buses. After firing at the windows, the gunmen then boarded the buses, shooting and killing all the men on on board. The gunmen then shot at the feet of the women and children. Some children were killed, and the gunmen took all the gold the women were wearing.

The eyewitnesses also made a note that one of the gunmen had a camera, which means the gunmen may release footage of the attack in the future.

On Friday, May 26, Egyptian fighter jets carried out six air strikes directed at camps in Libya which Cairo says have been training militants behind the Egypt attack.

Following the Minya shooting and Egypt’s counterattack, President of Egypt, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, said that Egypt would not hesitate to carry out further strikes against camps that trained people to carry out operations against Egypt.

For more information, please see:

AlJazeera- Egypt Launches Strikes Libya After Minya Attack – 27 May 2017

Los Angeles Times- Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Attack on Coptic Christians in Egypt that Left Dead- 27 May 2017

New York Times – Gunmen in Egypt Force Christian Pilgrims from Buses and Kill 28 – 26 May 2017

Reuters- Egypt air raids on Libya after Christians Killed- 27 May 2017

Reuters- Egypt Says Air Strikes Destroy Militant Camps after Attack on Christians- 27 May 2017

Reuters- Grief, Rage in Egyptian Church after Copts attacked by Gunmen- 27 May 2017

U.S. News & World Report- Islamic State Claims Responsibility for Egypt Attack – 27 May 2017

Iranian Television Broadcasts ‘Confession’ from Woman Sentenced to Stoning Execution

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TEHRAN, Iran –  Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, an Iranian woman sentenced to execution by stoning for alleged adultery has reportedly appeared on Iranian state television and ‘confessed’ to her crime.  The ‘confession’ was broadcast on Wednesday night, and Ashtiani [or a woman who identified herself as Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani] confessed to conspiring to murder her husband with her husband’s cousin, the man she is accused of having an affair with.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani / Photo courtesy of AP

The face of the woman who identified herself as Ashtiani was blurred, and her words were dubbed from Azeri, Ashtiani’s native language, into Persian.  These factors rendered positive identification of Ashtiani impossible.

The interview was broadcast the day after U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, urged Iran to honor treaty obligations which require Iran to respect the rights of citizens and to halt executions.

Ashtiani, a forty three-year-old mother of two, was first convicted of the crime of having an “illicit relationship” with two men in 2006 and received 99 lashes. Later that year an inquiry into whether she had committed “adultery while married” was opened and she was retried, receiving the sentence of execution by stoning.

Houtan Kian has taken on representation of Ashtiani since her last attorney, Mohammad Mostafaie, fled the country and sought asylum in Norway. He told the Guardian that the interview was genuine, and that Ashtiani was, in the days preceding the interview, “severely beaten up and tortured until she accepted to appear in front of the camera.” Kian added that he was worried that the judiciary would move quickly in order to carry out her death sentence now that they have a confession.

He reported that Ashtiani’s twenty two-year-old son and seventeen-year-old daughter were “completely traumatised by watching this programme.”

Nazanine Moshiri, an Al Jazeera reporter reporting from Tehran, said that a source connected to the Iranian judiciary has stated that is is unlikely that Ashtiani will be executed during Ramadan [which lasts until September 9th], and added that there remains a “small possibility” that her execution will be revoked.

The supposed confession comes nearly a month after her death sentence was suspended for judicial review.  Amnesty International’s deputy director for the Middle East, Hassiba Hadj Sahroui, said that the broadcast calls into question the independence of the Iranian judiciary. Sahroui stated:

“If the judiciary in Iran is to be taken seriously, this ‘confession’ needs to be disregarded  and assurances given that it will not affect the review of her case.”

Mina Ahadi of the Iran Committee against Stoning (ICAS) said:

“It’s not the first time Iran has put an innocent victim on a televised programme and killed them on the basis of forced confessions – it has happened numerously in the first decade of the Islamic Revolution.”

Ashtiani’s case still remains to be heard before the Iranian Supreme Court.

For more information, please see:

Al Jazeera – Iran stoning woman ‘confesses’ – 12 August 2010

The Guardian – Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani ‘confesses’ to murder on Iran state TV – 12 August 2010

New York Times – Woman Sentenced to Death by Stoning Reportedly Appears on Iranian Television – 12 August 2010

Radio Free Europe – Lawyers Say Stoning Defendant ‘Tortured’ To Confess on TV – 12 August 2010


Israel to Deport 400 Migrant Children

By Elizabeth A. Conger,
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Children of migrant workers at a protest against the deportation of the children of foreign workers. / Photo courtesy of:
Children of migrant workers protesting the decision to deport 400 migrant children from Israel. / Photo courtesy of David Bachar, Haaretz.com

JERUSALEM, Israel –  On Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cabinet recommended the deportation of 400 children of migrant workers within the next month.  The recommendation was approved by thirteen ministers, and voted against by ten, with four ministers abstaining.

Out of 1,200 children considered for deportation this past year, 800 were allowed to stay in Israel.

Of the remaining 400 children, those whose migrant parents have been in Israel for less than five years, and who have not yet entered first grade or a higher grade, will be deported.  Those children allowed to stay in Israel must also speak Hebrew, and if they were not born in Israel, must have arrived in Israel before the age of thirteen.  The parents of children allowed to stay must also have entered Israel legally.  Borderline cases will be decided by a special committee.

Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog abstained from the vote, stating: “I didn’t vote in favor [of the proposal] despite the improvements, which I supported, I could not accept deporting a group of five-year-old children.”

Those families whose children do meet the criteria must submit a request to the Interior Ministry within twenty one days.  If they are found to qualify, they will be given an additional twenty one days to produce required documentation. If approved, their parents and siblings will be entitled to temporary residence permits.

Netanyahu said of the decision: “This is a reasonable and balanced decision . . . It was influenced by two primary considerations – the humanitarian consideration and the Zionist consideration. We’re looking for a way to absorb and adopt to our hearts children who were brought up and raised here as Israelis. On the other hand, we don’t want to create an incentive that will lead to hundreds of thousands of illegal migrant workers flooding the country.”

Israeli Radio has reported that the Kibbutz Movement has made an offer to absorb the 400 children.  Kibbutz  Movement Secretary-General Ze’ev Schor appealed to Defense Minister Ehud Barak to freeze the cabinet’s decision.  Schor stated that the children slated for deportation were Israeli in every aspect beside their citizenship.

UNICEF Israel protested the cabinet’s decision calling it a “blatant violation” of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which Israel is a signatory.  “Israel must formulate a human immigration policy and stop the senseless revolving door policy, that wants to deport migrant workers and their children, on the one hand, and bring in new ones instead, on the other.”

Physicians for Human Rights Israel also protested the cabinet’s decision and said: “The threat of deportation that hangs over the heads of hundreds of children is a dreadful edict, which we refuse to accept. We will continue to act in order to make sure that all the children receive legal status in Israel and to assure that Israel establish a humane and orderly immigration policy. Adhoc solutions like this one are no replacement for such a policy.”

Israel has a population of 7.5 million, 250,000 to 300,000 of which are migrant laborers.  Only half of the migrant laborers in Israel have valid documentation.  Due to security concerns, Israel began to invite foreign workers for limited time periods to replace Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza to work in construction, agriculture and domestic work.  A significant proportion of those initially invited to work in Israel have outstayed their visas. The migrant population also continues to swell because of an influx of African refugees and economic migrants entering the porous border with Egypt.

For more information, please see:

Haaretz.com – Kitbbutz Movement Offers to Absorb Children of Foreign Workers set for Deportation – 2 August 2010

The Jerusalem Post – 400 foreign workers’ kids out – 2 August 2010

The New York Times – Israelis Divided on Deporting Children – 2 August 2010

Haaretz.com – Cabinet Approves Deportation of 400 Migrant Children from Israel  – 1 August 2010



Libya: Execution of Eighteen Foreign Nationals Condemned

African migrants captured in Libya. / Photo Courtesy of BBC 
Many African migrants enter Libya hoping to eventually reach Europe.
Photo Courtesy of BBC Archives, 2009.
By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

TRIPOLI, Libya – Human rights group Amnesty International has condemned the execution of eighteen foreign nationals in Libya. The eighteen individuals, from Chad, Egypt, and Nigeria, were executed by firing squad on Sunday. According to the Libyan newspaper Cerene, those executed had been convicted of murder. 

Amnesty International’s condemnation of the execution focused on Libya’s trial standards, which fail to satisfy international standards for fair trial.  Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International director for the Middle East and North Africa, said:

“In Libya we fear that death sentences are handed down after proceedings which fail to satisfy international standards for fair trial.”

Cerene reported that fourteen people were executed in Tripoli, Libya’s capital, and four were executed in Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city.

According to Amnesty, foreign nationals are at a disadvantage in the Libyan legal system because they do not have access to lawyers, have no access to their consular representatives, and frequently do not understand the trial proceedings, which are in Arabic. Furthermore, foreign nationals have a harder time getting their sentences commuted because they often have limited financial means, and do not possess the family networks that are necessary for successful negotiation in Libya.

Of the more than 200 people currently on death row in Libya, a disproportionate number of those waiting to be executed are foreign nationals.

Each year thousands of African migrants make their way to Libya with the hope of eventually finding passage to Europe.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Libyan executions of foreigners are condemned – 2 June 2010

AFP – Amnesty condems Libya executions – 2 June 2010

Amnesty International – Libya: Amnesty International Condemns Executions of 18 People Including Foreign Nations in Libya by Firing Squad – 1 June 2010

Lebanon: Twelve Charged in Lynching Death of Egyptian Murder Suspect

By Elizabeth A. Conger
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Photo: Villagers watching and filming the lynching of Mohammed Msalla. [Source: BBC]
Villagers watching and filming the lynching of Mohammed Muslem. [Source: AP]

KETERMEYA, Lebanon – Twelve men have been charged with murder after last month’s lynching of Mohammed Muslem, an Egyptian national living in the south-eastern Lebanese village of Ketermaya. Muslem was suspected in the quadruple-murder of an elderly couple and their two young granddaughters last month. The victims were the mother and father of local school teacher Rana Abu Merhi, as well as her two young daughters aged nine and seven.

Muslem, a village butcher, was a neighbor of the slain family. He had a prior criminal record and was a suspect in the rape of a thirteen year old girl in Ketermaya earlier this year.

He was arrested hours after the murder and confessed to the crime after spending the night in custody. The next morning, as a thousands of villagers gathered for the funeral of the slain family members, a police car carrying Muslem and six policemen passed the procession. The villagers overwhelmed the police car, dragged Muslem out of the car, and beat him.

The police were able to get Muslem back into the car and managed to take him to the local hospital. However, the the mob followed and dragged him back into the streets. Villagers say that the policemen disappeared after Muslem was dropped off at the hospital.

Muslem was stripped to his underwear and socks, paraded through the streets, and hoisted onto an electrical pole with a butcher’s hook.

The mob was eventually dispersed by Lebanese troops, who took away Muslem’s body when they arrived. The incident was filmed and footage of the lynching went online almost immediately, to the horror of many Lebanese citizens. 

Muslems lynching caused outrage in Egypt, where he was buried in early May. [Source: AFP]
Muslem’s funeral in Egypt. His lynching resulted in outrage among Egyptians. [Source: AFP]


The lynching has called into question the efficacy of law and order in Lebanon, a country with a reputation as one of the most progressive and liberal countries in the Arab world. In particular, the decision of the police officers involved to take Muslem to the murder site during the funeral procession, and to leave him unguarded at the hospital, have been criticized. Questions also remain as to how the crowd was informed of Muslem’s confession.

One young resident of Ketermaya told the BBC that he thought the policemen brought Muslem back because they wanted justice as well. Outside of a Ketermaya shop hung with graphic photos of the murdered children a signed is displayed reading: “We would like to thank the authorities for allowing justice to take place.”

Omar Nashabe, law editor of the Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar and criminal justice expert, said:

“The police seem to have acted like a judge. Violation of the presumption of innocence is a continuous problem in Lebanon, but this is just one side of the Ketermaya incident.” Nashabe added: “They killed an innocent man, a man who was not proven guilty by a court of law, who never had an opportunity to defend himself.”

Justice Minister Ibrahim Najarr responded to criticism of the Lebanese government which emerged in response to the incident, saying “Justice in Lebanon exists. We have judges, we have tribunals, we have credibility.” Najarr also referred to the arrest of those who allegedly participated in the lynching as evidence of law and order in Lebanon.

He told BBC reporter Natalia Antelava that, “After such a savage crime people were angry. This could have happened in any country.”

Antelava asked Najarr: “When was the last time you heard of police delivering a murder suspect to an angry mob?”

Antelava reported that Najarr did not have a reply to the question.

Two policemen involved in the incident have received a ten-day suspension.

For more information, please see:

ABC News – Lebanon charges 12 over butcher’s hook lynching – 20 May 2010

BBC – Village mob lynching raises questions for Lebanon – 20 May 2010

UPI – Legal Expert: Lebanon lacks law and order – 20 May 2010

Al Jazeera – Lebanon Makes Arrests Over Lynching – 8 May 2010

Iraqi Panel Moves to Disqualify Candidates

By Bobby Rajabi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – The committee in charge of vetting candidates in Iraq has found that six of the winning candidates in the March 7 general election should be disqualified for their alleged ties to the former Baath government. If the move by the panel is upheld, it would alter the election result, which resulted in former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi’s Iraqiyya coalition winning by two seats. Iraqiyya, however, lacks to the seats to form a government.

Iraq’s Accountability and Justice Commission found that six of election winners were members of the Baath political party. This was the party of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein and is banned under Iraqi law. The Committee, sometimes referred to as the De-Baathification Committee, was formed to prevent people associated with Hussein’s party from standing for elected office. Officials from the Committee, who chose to remain anonymous, told the Associated Press that of the six winners, four of them belonged to former Prime Minsters Allawi’s coalition.

Officials from the Justice and Accountability Committee told the AP that they had originally submitted fifty two names to barred from the standing in the election. However, according to the officials, Iraq’s Independent High Election Commission did not act on the recommendations of the committee. Six of the fifty two candidates subsequently went on the win their elections.

Allawi’s Iraqiyya bloc has rejected to moves of the Justice and Accountability Committee. Hamid al-Mutlaq, a winning candidate that is a member of Iraqiyya, insisted that “those six winning candidates have the approval of the election commission and this decision is a political one, not a legal one.” The Independent High Election Commission, despite ignoring the fifty two names referred to them by the Justice and Accountability Committee, ultimately barred close to fiver hundred candidates from standing for election.

The State of Law coalition leader, Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, is currently mounting a legal challenge to the election. Despite this challenge, both United Nations and United States envoys to Iraq have said the the March 7 election was credible.

For more information, please see:

BBC – Call to Bar Iraq Election Winners ‘Connected to Saddam’ – 31 March 2010

New York Times – Panel in Iraq Moves to Disqualify 52 Candidates – 29 March 2010

Associated Press – Iraq Panel Wants to Bar 4 Elected on Winning List – 29 March 2010

Despite Attacks, Over Sixty Percent Vote in Iraqi Election

By Bobby Rajabi

Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

BAGHDAD, Iraq – On March 8, officials from the Independent High Electoral Commission announced that the turnout for the March 7 Iraqi election was sixty two percent. The level of turnout was over sixty percent despite attacks throughout the country that killed over thirty five individuals. It is widely expected that Iraqi President Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition will win the most seats of another other Iraqi political party. The final officials results for the election will not be declared until the end of March

Maliki’s coalition reportedly did quite well in areas such as Baghdad and the Shi’ite south of Iraq. Anonymous Iraqi Officials told the Associated Foreign Press (AFP) that the Iraqi President was leading in nine of Iraq’s eighteen provinces. He was facing competition from the Iraq National Alliance, a Shi’ite dominated group, and the secular coalition led by former Iraqi Prime Minister Iyad Allawi. Allawi’s group reportedly did well in Iraq’s northern and western provinces.

Despite the strong showing by Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, it is highly unlikely that an party received the number of votes needed to form a government alone. It is possible that months of negotiations will precede any coalition forming a governing on its own.

Voter turnout varied throughout Iraq. In Anbar, the province composed mainly of Sunnis, reported a voter turnout of sixty one percent. Over five hundred candidates, mostly Sunni, were banned from running because of alleged connections to the Ba’ath party, the party of former President Saddam Hussein

The reported voter turnout number was even higher in Duhok. The AFP reported that Duhok, the northern Kurdish controlled autonomous area reported a voter turnout of eighty percent.

Attacks on election day took place in Baghdad, Mosul, Fallujah, and Baquba. Despite insurgents threatening to disrupt the election, there were no large suicide bombings as feared by many Iraqi officials. The worst attack took place on an apartment block in Baghdad which collapsed and killed twenty five people.

President Obama commented on the election, saying that it showed that “the future of Iraq belongs to the people of Iraq.”

For more information, please see:

AP – Iraq Elections Head Says Turnout at 55-60 percent – 8 March 2010

Al Jazeera – Iraq Awaits Election Results – 9 March 2010

BBC – Iraq Elections Turnout 62%, Officials Say – 9 March 2010