Friday, 5 December 2014

UNPO Briefs Delegation for Relations with Iraq at European Parliament


Yesterday, 4 December 2014, the European Parliament Delegation for Relations with Iraq (D-IQ) convened its 5th European Parliament – Iraq Interparliamentary Meeting to discuss the security, political and human rights/humanitarian situation in Iraq. UNPO, who recently concluded a 10-day fact finding mission in Iraq together with the Institute for International Law and Human Rights (IILHR), was invited to brief the D-IQ on the human rights situation in Iraq and the preliminary findings of the mission.
The meeting was chaired by MEP David Campbell Bannerman and brought together a number of MEPs, Iraqi parliamentarians and government officials, as well as expert speakers, who discussed a range of different elements on the crisis in Iraq.
Although the speakers represented a variety of organizations and discussed different elements, they all emphasized two things in particular. First of all, the dire humanitarian situation of minorities and internally displaced people and the horrendous human rights violations that they have endured were acknowledged and emphasized by all speakers. The importance of unity was also highlighted: how the crisis must continue to unite Iraq’s many ethnic and religious components against the threat of the IS and how the international community must stand with Iraq in dealing with both immediate and long-term security, humanitarian and rule-of-law challenges.
Dr. Humam Baqer Hamoodi, the Vice President of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, made the point that the response to the current crisis in Iraq should and must include the whole international community: “Such is the severity of the current situation, that the entire international community has a responsibility to assist Iraq in dealing with its humanitarian crisis and providing for the millions of IDPs”.
Ambassador Brett McGurk, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and General John Allen’s Deputy Senior Envoy (Global Coalition to Counter ISIL) gave a detailed explanation of the security situation in Iraq and the coalition’s military action, stating that the situation is getting better, but fighting the Islamic State will be a long process and counter offensives are planned for this coming spring.
Mr. John O’Rourke, Head of Division for the Arabian Peninsula, Iran and Iraq at the European External Action Service and Mr. Jean-Louis de Brower, Director of Operations in the European Commission’s DG ECHO, explained the EU’s political and humanitarian response to the crisis, respectively, while Mr. Jean-Claude Boidin, the Head of Unit for Geographical Coordination for Central Asia, Middle East/Gulf, Asia Regional Programs at DG DEVCO in the European Commission stated that thinking about Iraq’s long term future and building on EU development programs already undergoing in Iraq are essential to addressing the root causes of the current crisis. The work and challenges facing theUN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Iraq were explain by Ms. Rebecca Blackledge, who highlighted that the utmost priority for IDPs now is winterization assistance.
Civil society also spoke on the humanitarian and human rights situation in Iraq. UNPO Program Manager Johanna Green, briefed the delegation on the findings of UNPO and IILHR’s fact finding mission, including the humanitarian situation and specific human rights violations, particularly focusing on Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities. In her speech, Ms Green gave a first-hand account of the terrible conditions in the IDP camps that individuals from ethnic and religious components, particularly the Yezidis, are forced to endure. She also drew attention to how the discriminatory practices which have been an unfortunate reality for ethnic and religious minority groups in Iraq – including the Turkmen, Assyrians, Shabakis and others – for most of the country’s recent history, have been reflected in the response of the authorities, in the wake of the IS attacks.
UNPO's Johanna Green briefing the EP Delegation for Relations with Iraq
As the world has turned its focus to Iraq’s security situation and combatting Daesh, or the so called Islamic State, the horrific human rights violations and dire conditions facing Iraq’s 2 million internally displaced persons risk being overlooked and ignored. Therefore, UNPO, IILHR and Minority Rights Group (MRG) have launched a joint initiative culminating in the publication of a comprehensive report on the human rights and humanitarian situation in Iraq since 1 June 2014, which will be presented before the European Parliament at a date to be confirmed. The joint UNPO-IIHLR mission between 8 and 18 November 2014 to Erbil, Dohuk and Baghdad, where the mission delegates talked to minority leaders, senior Iraqi government officials, parliamentarians, local NGOs and IDPs, aimed at collecting first-hand information for the said publication.
To download UNPO’s speech before the D-IQ on the situation of Iraq’s ethnic and religious minorities please click here.

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