April 18, 2012

Baghdad Ushers in a New Era in Rights Protection

High Commission on Human Rights Appointed in Landmark Vote

Below is a press release from NPWJ, IILHR, UNPO:

Brussels, 11 April 2012

In a historic move, parliamentarians in Baghdad voted on 9 April 2012 to institute the country’s first Human Rights Commission. Composed of eleven members and three reserve members the Commission is a landmark step in Iraq’s transition to democracy and building a culture of respect for human rights.

The process to select the Commission’s members, made up of experts from diverse backgrounds vetted from more than 3,000 candidates was plagued by controversy and delays. However in the final slate presented to legislators on Monday were four women and representatives of the Yezidi, Assyrian and Turkmen communities. Ahead of this independent national institution lies the challenge to promote and protect the rights of all Iraqi citizens, irrespective of their ethnic, religious, gender or other difference.

An advocate for the Commission for more than five years who has engaged on the question of rule of law and human rights in Iraq, William Spencer, Executive Director of the Institute for International Law and Human Rights believes that “whilst it is overdue and many challenges lie ahead for it, the formation of the Commission is an incredibly positive step and an example for the rest of the region – the important issue now will be to support its members in the enormous amount of work facing them. The Committee of Experts formed to name the final slate of commissioners worked professionally and practically.”

For minorities and other communities the Commission represents “a new means of upholding the rights and liberties long subverted by years of authoritarianism and violence…confidence in its capabilities and capacity has to be built but the speed of the Commission’s adoption can only be a sign for optimism” believes Marino Busdachin, General Secretary of the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization, which represents many of the communities in Iraq, from Assyrians to Turkmen.

Coming as it did against the backdrop of work conducted by No Peace Without Justice in supporting women’s rights in Iraq, Secretary General Niccolo' Figa-Talamanca noted that “ the four women have a crucial role to play in defending the rights of society as a whole in the Commission.”

Members of the new Commission will serve a term of four years. The Commission is an independent, Constitutionally-mandated body charged with protecting the rights guaranteed in Iraq’s Constitution and international treaties.