“The draft Constitution was adopted by 78% in the Referendum” on 15 October announced Farid Ayyar, an official of the Independent Electoral Commission at a Baghdad Press Conference on 25 October to give the results for 18 provinces. “The results are accurate and honest”, stressed Mr. Ayyar, affirming that the votes had been counted in accordance with international standards. “It can be called a success, despite the delay taken in announcing the results, which has given rise to certain interpretations”, he stressed, referring to the suggestion of manipulation of the results, made by some Sunni Arabs.
Two provinces with Sunni Arab majorities, Salaheddin and Al-Anbar, rejected the draft by more than two thirds of the votes cast. However, Nineveh, whose capital is Mossul and which houses a substantial Kurdish minority side by side with its Arab majority, only cast 55.08% against the Constitution. For the Constitution to have been rejected, despite the overall majority in its favour, there would have had to be a third province voting more than 66.66% against, which did not happen. Nevertheless an amendment to the draft constitution by the future National Assembly, to be elected on 15 December, is possible. The Iraqi Islamic Party, principal Sunni Arab organisation, which had called for a vote in favour of the draft Constitution, also expressed reservations on the result without, however, challenging its validity.
The United States and Great Britain, who lead the foreign military coalition in Iraq, welcomed the adoption of the Constitution, the White House calling it a “historic day” for Iraq. The UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, also spoke of a “historic document” and the UN mission to Iraq, while congratulating the Iraqis for their participation, remarked that the results had “shown the degree of political polarisation in Iraq”.
Here are the results of the referendum in the Kurdish and mixed (Arabo-Kurdish) provinces, followed by those for the rest of the country.
The Iraqi Kurds, who were in favour of the Constitution, overwhelmingly voted, on 15 October, in its favour in a referendum described as historic by President Massud Barzani. “This is a historic day that crowns the sacrifices by the martyrs”, had declared Mr. Barzani, President of Kurdistan to the press after casting his vote. He considered that the referendum “lays the foundations for a democratic Iraq and a peaceful co-existence between its ethnic components”. Indeed, in the queues that quickly formed outside the polling booths, many felt that they were voting more in favour of their autonomy, which has, in practice, existed since 1991, than for anything else. The UN mission for Iraq had printed a million copies of the draft Constitution in Kurdish for distribution in Kurdistan. Of these, 300,000 were distributed in the Province of Irbil, 200,000 in that of Duhok and 400,000 in that of Suleimaniyah. In addition, 100,000 copies were sent to Kirkuk and the same to Mossul, in view of the substantial Kurdish communities in those towns.
The draft presented to the electorate was the result of tough negotiations by the Kurdish political leaders, led by Messrs Barzani and Talabani and it clearly recognises Kurdish autonomy while specifying that Islam in not the sole source of legislation. Mr. Barzani was the hinge pin of the final bargaining in Baghdad preceding the referendum and which had the effect of rallying a part of the Sunni Arabs to backing the draft, by making possible future amendments to the Constitution.
On 8 October, the Iraqi Islamic Party called on its supporters to vote in favour of the draft constitution, after an agreement with the Kurdish and Shiite parties that allowed for the possibility of revising the document in the course of the four months following the December general Election. This election will endow Iraq with a parliament and a government for the next four years. It thus constitutes a very important stake in the future and it is expected that wide sections of the Sunni Arabs will also participate in it to ensure that their demands are receive a hearing in the new institutions.
On 17 October, the remains of 512 members of the Barzani tribe, massacred under the Saddam Hussein regime, were transported by plane from Southern Iraq to Irbil, in Kurdistan, two days before the opening of Saddam Hussein’s trial. A solemn ceremony was organised for the occasion. These victims are part of the 8,000 Barzanis, deported in 1983 who then disappeared. Their bodies came to light at Bsaya, in the Southern province of Muthamma, not far from the Saudi borders. Covered by the Kurdish flag (red white and green with a sun-burst symbol in the middle), the coffins were carried from the plane by peshmergas.
Massud Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, presided over the ceremony, which was marked by a spirit of silent remembrance, and attended by the families of the victims, and many Kurdish public figures. They laid wreaths on the 512 coffins, lined up in the sun on the airport tarmac. Some widows, carrying old and faded photos of their murdered husbands, wept into their handkerchiefs. Even some of the men, wearing traditional dress, were unable to hide their feelings.
“8,000 members of the Barzani tribe, between the ages of 10 and 80, were arrested on 31 July by the police forces and the Republican Guard” (the Baathist Party’s now disbanded elite army corps) states Mr. Barzani. These people had been forcibly expelled from the Barzan region after the suppression of the 1975 Kurdish revolt and placed in guarded internment camps in the Irbil region. “After their arrest, they were first taken to the Abu Gharib prison before being sent to Bsaya, near the Saudi border”, Mr. Barzani related. Documentation found after the fall of the regime showed that “every evening about a hundred of them were executed and thrown into mass graves”, he continued. “We have the names of officials who gave the orders and of those who carried them out. All is recorded in these documents”, Mr. Barzani added.
For his part, President Talabani denounced “this great crime against the Barzanis and the Kurds, committed by the fascist enemy”. “Tens of thousands of innocent people were buried alive in mass graves and these martyrs have become the symbols of (Saddam Hussein’s) black regime”. “We are united here together to pay a last tribute to these martyrs of the Barzanis and of all Iraqi Kurdistan. May their memory remain alive in our minds”, he declared.
The Kurdistan Minister for Human Rights, Mohammed Ihsan, explained that “searches to find the remains of the clan went un for two years until the mass graves containing these remains”. The file on the Barzani clan victims is complete and will be put before the Iraqi Special Court as evidence in the trial of leaders of the former regime, he announced. “284 other sites containing the corpses of Kurdish victims are being examined”, the minister pointed out.
Following the ceremony, the coffins were loaded onto vehicles and driven to the Barzan region, 200 Km North of Irbil, where they were buried in a cemetery specially arranged for them.
On 19 October, four days after the referendum on the new Iraqi Constitution, Saddam Hussein was brought before his judges for a trial that has long been awaited by the Kurds and Shiites. A Kurdish judge, Rizgar Mohammed Amin, assisted by four assessors, presided the hearings of the Iraqi Special Court (ISC), before which Saddam Hussein and seven of his lieutenants is appearing charged with the massacre of 143 Shiites in 1982. The hearing was broadcast, though not live, by the principal Iraqi and international networks and aroused sharp reactions. Since his inglorious capture by American soldiers on 13 December 2003, the Shiites and Kurds have unceasingly called for the head of the man who had persecuted them throughout his 24 years reign. Among the Shiites, whose uprising was so harshly repressed in 1991 by Saddam Hussein’s security services after Iraq’s defeat in the Gulf War, few are bothered about any legal formalities.
The Kurds, who were the principal victims of the Saddam Hussein regime, call for him to be tried and that his crimes be fully brought to light. Accused of massacres, forced displacement of whole populations, gassing the Kurds and a variety of summary executions and purges, the former Iraqi dictator and seven of his lieutenants will first be tried for “the execution of 143 citizens, the sequestration of 399 families, the destruction of their houses and (farm) lands” at Dujail, 60 Km North of Baghdad. He faces a death sentence. “We would have preferred to see the Iraqi Special Court complete its investigations into Saddam Hussein’s other crimes” before beginning its hearing, remarked Mohammed Ihsan, Kurdistan Minister for Human Rights, regretfully.
The ISC spokesman, Judge Raed al-Juhi, affirmed reassuringly that investigations were progressing on the other cases for which Saddam Hussein and his assistants could be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity.
Echoing the feelings of a substantial part of the population, the Head of State, Jalal Talabani, had allowed himself to say, at the beginning of the month, that Saddam Hussein deserved “to die a hundred times” even if he, a lawyer by profession, was opposed to capital punishment on principle. “If he is sentenced to death I will not sign it”, he nevertheless indicated, making the point later that he would leave this responsibility to his Vice-Presidents. To the defence lawyers, who complained that the trial was biased, Mr. Talabani replied: “there has been no political decision to eliminate Saddam Hussein and the court is independent”. Moreover, on 30 October, Jalal Talabani made a gesture towards Barzan al-Tikriti, Saddam Hussein’s half-brother, by asking that he be released from prison to be treated for cancer. Barzan al-Tikriti had implored help in having cancer treatment from world leaders, including Mr. Talabani and US President George Bush, in a message published on 28 October in the Arabic language daily Asharq al-Awsat.
The Iraqi press in general welcomed the opening of the trial, not hesitating to see in it a warning to all the dictators in the world. But one Sunni Arab paper had not dared to make any comments of its own, limiting itself to reproducing News Agency reports verbatim. However, on 19 October, the bulk of the Iraqi press, Kurdish or Shiite, greeted the beginning of the trial of the fallen President and seven of his lieutenants with headlines such as “The trial of the Century”, “The trial of a tyrant” and “First Arab dictator to be tried”. Under the headline “The trial of the Century”, Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari’s Shiite Dawa Party’s daily al-Bayan stated that “the Iraqis will at last see their former dictator at the mercy of Iraqi justice”. “This trial, for which we have been waiting for two and a half years, comes just after the referendum on the Constitution, which, if adopted, will put an end forever to a period dominated by wars, tortures and massacres”. Al-Adala, the paper of the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq headlined “Trial of the tyrant Saddam Hussein in the Republican Palace”, publishing a photo of the fallen dictator on the day he was captured by American troops in December 2003, in an underground hideout North of Baghdad. “This trial is not one of revenge, but a trial of he who the ruled Iraq with fire and sword, so that he receive a just punishment”, the paper said.
Another Shiite paper, al-Moatamar, close to Deputy Prime Minister Ahmed Shalabi displayed a red headline reading “The massacre of Dujail is, by itself, enough (to deserve) capital punishment” for Saddam Hussein.
“Today the dictator Saddam Hussein and the pillars of his regime are on trial” headlined Al-Ittihad (Unity), President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. Another Kurdish paper, al-Taakhi (Brotherhood), the organ of Massud Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, under the headline “The Trial” declared that “the victims of the mass graves await the judgement of history”. “These victims demand of the Court of Justice that it pass the severest sentences so that they can rest in peace”.
Al-Sabah (pro-government) stressed that “the Iraqis won’t shed any tears” for Saddam Hussein while Sabah al-Jihad headlined “The historic first trial of an Arab dictator”.
After a day devoted to establishing the identity of the accused, the ISC decided to hold its next hearing on 28 November at the request of the defence lawyers who said they had not had access to all the case’s documents and to allow witnesses to be heard who had not been able to appear before the Court for security reasons.
Here are the principal crimes listed on the charge sheet:
- In 1991, following the defeat of the Iraqi Army, driven out of Kuwait by the American-led coalition, Saddam Hussein crushed in blood the Shiite uprising in Southern Iraq, causing tens of thousands of victims.
- In 1988, during the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988), the Iraqi air force dropped a whole range of chemical on the Kurdish town of Halabja. This bombing raid was the greatest attack using military gasses against civilians: some 5,000 Iraqi Kurds, mainly women and children, were killed in a matter of minutes as well as some 10,000 injured.
- The Anfal campaign: in 1987-1988, according to generally accepted assessments, about 182,000 people were killed in a massive forced displacements of population and massacres in Kurdish villages by the Saddam Hussein regime.
- Iran accuses Saddam Hussein of “crimes against humanity, genocide, violation of international rules and use of prohibited weapons” during the war between the two countries, which Western observes estimate caused nearly a million deaths on both sides.
- Kuwait, invaded in 1990 by Saddam Hussein’s troops and occupied for seven months, in its own charge sheet against the former Iraqi president, has called for the death sentence for crimes committed in the emirate during the occupation.
- The charges against Saddam Hussein and his lieutenants allege responsibility for war crimes, crimes against humanity and the use of armed force to invade the emirate.
- In 1983, the deportation and massacre of 8,000 members of the Barzani tribe, a Kurdish tribe of which Massud Barzani, the present President of Kurdistan, is a member.
- The execution of Shiite religious dignitaries in 1980 and 1999.
Examining all these charges will take months.
On 4 October, Turkey began negotiations for membership of the European Union following an agreement extracted at the last minute — which illustrates the unease at this country’s candidature. The official ceremony opening the process, which is expected to last ten years, took place soon after midnight in Luxemburg, after a diplomatic marathon needed to overcome Austrian resistance and Turkish objections. The difficulties experienced by the Twenty-Five in reaching a compromise on the mandate for negotiations with Ankara bears witness to the ultra-sensitive character of this case and the questioning of their public opinions and of some of their leaders.
With 72 million inhabitants, over 95% of them Moslem, Turkey is a heavyweight and its possible entry into the E.U. in ten or fifteen years is a geopolitical, economic, financial and institutional challenge. “It is a situation in which everyone wins and the whole world will also win (…) a situation that will add to the diversity of Europe”, declared the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, on arriving in the middle of the night from Ankara, where he had waited all day for an agreement before jumping into his plane. Jack Straw, the British Foreign Minister, who presided over this marathon, welcomed “a veritably historic day for Europe and for the international community as a whole”. However, he also added, “this is the beginning of a process of negotiations, and the road will be long”.
For Turkey, these negotiations crown a process begun in September 1963, with the signing of an agreement of association with the European Community. But harsh negotiations were needed for the Foreign Ministers of the Twenty-Five to overcome the reservations of Austria, that wished to propose an alternative to Turkey full membership, and to agree on the terms of the mandate for negotiations with Ankara.
After a day and a night of an intense diplomatic ballet, during which the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice saw fit to interfere by telephone, Vienna and Ankara accepted a document which maintains the objective of membership, as decided by the European leaders in December 2004. Vienna accepted that the formula of “privileged partnership”, its alternative to full membership, which is supported by many conservative and Christian Democratic parties of Western Europe, should not appear in the mandate for discussion. In return, the Twenty-Five reaffirmed that the eventual entry of Turkey would be conditional on the “capacity of absorption” of the European Union of a country that would be the most populated and that would absorb between 16 and 28 billion euros of European funds by the year 2025. “It is clear that the capacity of absorption of the Union is a condition that must be fulfilled for Turkey to join; otherwise it will not take place” declared the Austrian Foreign Minister, Ursula Plasnik.
The stakes before the Luxemburg marathon were high: failure would have added a new crisis to the constitutional and budgetary crises that the Union has been going through since the double “NO” of the French and Dutch referenda on the European Constitution. It would also have been a blow to the reforms begun in Turkey. However, Turkey’s application is only at the very beginning of a long process, no doubt of ten or fifteen years. Ankara must now integrate into its judicial corpus the 80,000 pages of directives, laws and regulations that make up the “community gains”, the legal basis common to all the members of the E.U.
“The negotiations must be fair and rigorous (…) (Turkey) must strictly observe the requirements regarding democracy, human rights, and the State of Laws if it wants to enter the club” declared the President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso.
Furthermore, at least two countries, France and Austria, have announced that the electors would have the last word on membership. “A State can, at any moment, stop the negotiation process if it so wishes”, recalled the French Foreign Minister, Philippe Douste-Blazy. “For the European citizens we have created the certainty that they cannot be ignored”, declared, for his part, the Austrian Chancellor, Wolfgang Schussel.
On 4 October, the French Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, recalled that the process of negotiations with Turkey was “under control”, “long and open” and “conditional”. “At each stage, the 25 member States will have the possibility of being consulted and will vote”, the Prime Minister recalled. He also reminded the members of Parliament that the French people would be consulted by referendum on the result of the negotiations, by virtue of a constitutional amendment adopted at the beginning of the year. Former President of the Republic, Valéry Giscard d’Estaing expressed “regret” and “sadness” at seeing “the great French project of a political union of Europe” being distanced in favour of “a great free trade zone”.
The following is the framework of the discussions for Turkey’s membership of the European Union.
The Arab League General Secretary, Amr Mussa, made what was described as a historic visit to Iraqi Kurdistan and secured the support of the Kurds, following that obtained from the Shiites, for his proposal of an Iraqi conference of mutual understanding. On 23 October, the head of the Arab League spoke before 111 members of the Kurdistan parliament to call for “fraternity and understanding” between the Iraqis. This is the first time that an Arab leader has addressed this Assembly and this visit to Kurdistan is considered to be an implicit recognition, by the Arab League, of a region of one of its members that has been autonomous since 1991.
On the diplomatic level, the Arab League General Secretary received support for his initiative from the Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, after having secured the support of the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, who he met in Irbil. “I give my total support to Amr Mussa’s action and ideas, because they serve Iraq’s interest”, declared Mr. Talabani to the press after meeting the Arab Leader in Suleimaniyah. “We will employ all our means and contacts with the different components of Iraqi society as well as our international relations” to make it succeed, he stressed, adding that the Arab League was “in the best position to play a role in Iraq”.
Amr Mussa, who extended his visit to Iraq by two days, affirmed that that “we are all waiting for the birth of the new Iraq, which is part of the Arab world, with all the specific characteristics laid out in its Constitution”. He made the point that his assistant for Arab affairs, Ahmad Ben Helli, would shortly be coming to Iraq to pursue consultations on the subject of details of the initiative and to speed up it’s application.
Mr. Ben Mussa is seeking to hold, in Iraq, a conference of all the different political forces. Iraqi public figures have announced that a preparatory meeting would take place on 15 November in Cairo, but this has not yet been officially confirmed. The Arab League initiative had received the support of a major Shiite dignitary — the Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, a reference of weight in this community that constitutes the majority of the country’s population. “I obtained the blessing and support of Ayatollah Sistani, which has given me great pleasure”, indicated Mr. Mussa on 22 October after meeting the cleric in the holy city of Najaf, South of Baghdad.
Furthermore, on the eve of a meeting of Arab countries on Iraq, the Iraqi Foreign Minister criticised, on 1 October, those neighbours who fail to prevent numbers of insurgent s from crossing their borders to fight the Iraqi government. Iraqi Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, declared that the Arab countries should help Iraq fight the insurgents if they wished to end Iran’s interference in the country. He also urged the Arab language press to stop using the term “resistance fighters”. The Foreign Affairs Ministries of eight Arab countries and the General Secretary of the Arab League, Amr Mussa, met in Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) to discuss the stabilisation of the situation in Iraq.
The Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, and the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, who criticise Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari of monopolising executive powers, warned him against a withdrawal of their support for the government, stated a leader of Mr. Talabani’s party on 3 October. “If you do not rapidly resolve these problems, this would affect our alliance”, the Iraqi President said in a letter sent a few days ago to Mr. al-Jaafari and made public by Mullah Bakhtiar, a leader of the Patriotic union of Kurdistan (PUK). “We have sent joint a delegation to Baghdad to discuss with Jaafari’s government our points of difference”, added Mr. Bakhtiar. According to him, the two leaders reproach the Prime Minister of failing to observing an agreement of alliance signed before the formation of the government after the January elections, won by the Kurdish and Shiite lists.
Their letter, which covers the contentious issues, in particular accuse the Prime Minister of not giving Iraqi Kurdistan, which has been autonomous since 1991, the means for its economic development. It also reproaches the absence of meetings between the President of the Republic, the Speaker of the House of Parliament and the chief of the government, the appointment without prior discussion, of senior civil servants and also of visits abroad of Iraqi delegations consisting of only Shiite members of the government. Messrs. Talabani and Barzani, moreover, call on Mr. al-Jaafari to take measures to prevent the murder of Sunnis. “If Jaafari continues in this direction, we will reach a dead end” added Mr. Bakhtiar.
The Prime Minister has refused to start a controversy following the acid remarks President Talabani made in the course of the week. “I heard, as you did (Mr. Talabani’s remarks) but I do not have the time to express my personal reactions”, he stated at a Press Conference. Explaining that all his time was used in “directing the executive power in the government”, the Shiite Prime Minister added. “When the time comes I will strongly express myself”.
Mr. Talabani has accused Mr. Jaafari a first time of exceeding his prerogatives, as laid down by the Law of the Transitional Authority (LTA) that rules the country pending adoption of a permanent Constitution. “One of our problems with the Prime Minister is that he is in breach of this Law”, he declared, as quoted by Patriotic Union of Kurdistan’s daily paper Ittihad. He referred to Article 24 that stipulates that “the Iraqi transitional government (…) is consists of the National Assembly, the Presidential Council, the Council of Ministers, which includes the Prime Minister, and the Judiciary”. According to Mr. Talabani, “The Prime Minister should not seek to be the sole representative of the government” since he “only represents a quarter of it”.
Another point of tension is the status of the city of Kirkuk, which the Kurds claim should be included in Iraqi Kurdistan. The Saddam Hussein regime had practiced a policy of forced Arabisation as from the early 60s, by driving out Kurds. The PUK paper recalled that, following the General Election, the Kurdish and Shiite alliances, the two victors of the poll, had signed an agreement in favour of the return of Kurds to this city, in particular providing for financial compensation to help their resettlement. “There was a protocol, signed by six members of the two parties. Its clauses have not been applied. The Prime Minister is taking unilateral decisions”, Mr. Talabani accused.
However, the dissatisfaction publicly expressed by the two Kurdish leaders is considered a warning and should not degenerate into a government crisis. The government’s term of office ends in December and no one would have any interest in provoking such a crisis.
On 27 October, the Commission of Enquiry into the “Food for Oil” scandal in Iraq revealed that the manipulations of the UN programme by the Saddam Hussein regime had enabled him to embezzle 1.8 billion dollars. Over 2,200 firms, knowingly or not, had lent themselves to his game, affirmed the independent commission of enquiry in its 5th and last report. Amongst these firms, coming from 60 different countries, many were Russian, French or Chinese. Baghdad pursued a deliberate policy of favouritism for countries perceived as “friendly” with the aim or securing the lifting of the international sanctions imposed on Iraq, explained the Commission, led by former Federal Bank director, Paul Volcker. According to the report, some companies, particularly American ones like Bayoil, hid behind screen companies in “acceptable” countries. Amongst the companies named are some industrial giants, like Volvo, Siemens, Daimler -Chrysler. The Commission of Enquiry also cited Russian companies that had taken part in the manipulations, such as Zarubejneft, Alfa Eco, and Machinoimport.
However, Mr. Volcker stressed repeatedly before the press that “the identification of a company in the report does not necessarily mean that the company itself, as against any agent of the company, had in fact authorised or even was aware of the existence of illicit payments”. The report indicated that the Banque National de Paris (BNP) had found itself in a position of “conflict of interests”. While being the official manager of the blocked UN accounts, for which it received and paid out funds connected with the programme, the French bank also acted as guarantor for companies taking part in the programme.
The Commission identifies individuals of several nationalities who benefited from illegal allocations of oil from Iraq, such as former diplomats Serge Boidevaix and jean-Bernard Mérimée, both at present subject to proceedings in France, the former Minister of the Interior, Charles Pasqua and his councillor Bernard Guillet, the businessman Claude Kaspereit. Also named are the British Member of Parliament George Galloway, the President of the Italian Region of Lombardy, Roberto Formigoni, the Swiss businessman Alain Bionda and the Russian politician Vladimir Jirinovsky.
In force from 1996 to 2003, the “Food for Oil” programme allowed Baghdad to sell oil and buy essential consumables. Its aim was to lighten the impact on the Iraqi population of the international embargo imposed on Iraq following the invasion of Kuwait. The programme reached a total value of 100 billion dollars (64 billion for oil and 36 for food). According to the report, the use by Baghdad of a policy of systematic back-handers and over-billing began in 2000, pushing some of the biggest oil companies to withdraw from the programme. “It was then that other companies and intermediaries came on the scene and that screen companies were created”, indicated Mr. Volcker. “It was at this moment that the programme was corrupted”
However, the report also stresses that the Saddam Hussein drew 11 billion dollars of illegal profits from oil smuggling at its borders, outside the UN programme. Mr. Volker stated that it was now up to the courts in each country to determine whether there were grounds for proceedings against any individuals. The UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, has called on the member states to punish the companies having paid backhanders. Switzerland has announced that it has started a criminal investigation on four of its citizens. For its part, Washington considered that the Volcker report showed the urgent need to reform UNO.
Furthermore, corruption in Iraq continues to divert billions of dollars per year and Washington and Baghdad must do much more to wipe it out, estimated the US Inspector General for Iraq. In a report published on 30 October, Stuart Bowen recommends the holding of an Americano-Iraqi summit devoted to this issue. “The creation of an efficient anti-corruption structure within the Iraqi government is essential for the long term success of Iraq’s nascent democracy”, he explains in his seventh quarterly report to Congress. The auditor estimated that oil embezzlement loses more than 2 billion dollars each year in Iraq. He also cites an Iraqi Audit Office report according to which 1.27 billion dollars are said to have been lost between June 2004 and February 2005 in 90 reconstruction contracts that were attributed to “favoured suppliers” and generated, in passing, secret commissions paid to intermediaries. Making an assessment of 2,784 reconstruction projects, the Bowen report notes that 1,887 of them have been completed and that the others are under way.
However he also reveals that oil production remains at a low level, that exports of Iraqi crude are sabotaged by the insurrection and that electricity supplies to the Iraqi population are supply is still very limited. The Bowen organisation, created by Congress to monitor the Iraq Reconstruction Fund, includes 20 auditors and ten investigators in Iraq, as well as staff in the United States.
Iraq experience a bloody month of October, which coincided with the month of the Ramadan fast and the referendum on the Iraqi Constitution. In all, 407 Iraqis were killed, two thirds of whom (299) were civilians according to official statistics. This figure is, nevertheless, a drop on September's, in which 700 Iraqis were killed. The day of 31 October was also a murderous one for the US Army, which announced the death of seven of its troops on that single day — all killed by home made bomb attacks. In all, 2,022 GIs and US civilians carrying out military duties have been killed in Iraq since the invasion of the country in March 2003, according to a body count by the AFP news agency. October was the fourth bloodiest month for US soldiers in Iraq, with 94 deaths, according to an assessment based on Pentagon data.
In this context, Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari wrote to the UN Security Council asking for a one-year extension of the presence of the Multinational Force in the country. The Iraqi authorities consider that their forces are not yet ready to ensure security in the country, despite successes announced in the struggle against extremist groups.
It is virtually impossible to establish an assessment of lives lost on the Iraqi side, where civilians are the main victims of the violence. Estimated vary between 27,000 and 100,000 deaths, though several experts agree on figure of about 30,000. The Associated Press (AP) news agency, for its part, has counted 3,870 Iraqi deaths in the last six months — over two thirds civilians, the rest members of the security forces — excluding those amongst the insurgents. It had counted at least 3,240 civilians killed in the first month of the war. “We will probably never know the real number of Iraqi civilians killed or wounded in this war” recognised the US Army spokesman in Baghdad, lieutenant colonel Steve Boylan. Lieutenant-colonel Boylan adds that the army makes its own record of Iraqis killed, but does not publish them and that he himself does not have access to them. The Pentagon, drawing a lesson from the disastrous balance sheet of the Vietnam War, declared that it would not account for Iraqi deaths, to the anger of humanitarian organisations that consider it is best placed for doing this.
However, the evaluation of an independent British peace organisation, Iraq Body Count, basing itself on the media, and including the victims of the US forces, of the insurrection and of plain murders, appeared quite credible to lieutenant-colonel Boylan, namely 26,690 to 30,051 civilians killed, or about a thousand a month since the start of the war in March 2003. Judith Yaphe, a former analyst of US intelligence (CIA) who has specialised in Iraq also accepts a bracket of 20 to 30 thousand civilian deaths. As for her Army colleague, Anthony Cordesman, a recognised authority on Iraq at the Washington Centre for International Strategic Studies, in a report published on 21 October stresses the “extremely uncertain” character of Iraqi Body Count’s estimates, but adds that they seem to be more reliable. He also cites the figure of the Iraqi authorities of 5,600 civilians killed since the formation of the new government on 28 April. But it is impossible to know what is happening in certain remote and dangerous regions.
Quite logically, the figures climb still higher if the losses by the insurrection and the Iraqi security forces are included. Michael O’Hanlon, a military analyst at the Brookings Institute, who has been closely following the question, evaluated these at a monthly average of 1,500 to 2,000, half of whom are insurgents.
Because, if the US forces lose 60 to 70 men a month, the new Iraqi troops lose that many a week, mainly victims of the insurgents, who carried out about 90 attacks a day in September, according to Michael O’Hanlon.
Furthermore, he stresses, the rate of Iraqi criminality, the highest in the Middle East, has exploded, with a leap to 10,000 homicides a year since the invasion. From these observations, he draws up an assessment of 40 to 70 thousand civilian deaths. “These figures (…) fuel the insurrection because the perception — and sometimes the reality — is that we have not done enough to protect innocent Iraqi lives”.
A study published in October 2004 by the medical revue The Lancet evaluated the number of civilian deaths because of the war at 98,000 since March 2003, but this enquiry, based on extrapolations, leaves many experts sceptical.
On the other hand nearly 540 corpses have been discovered in Iraq over the last five months, 204 of them in Baghdad, according to a body count published on 8 October by Associated Press. The Sunni and Shiite communities have mutually accused one another of these latest massacres. According to AP calculations based on government, police and hospital sources, 539 bodies have been discovered since the arrival in office of the interim government on 28 April. Of these, 116 were Sunni Arabs, 43 Shiites and one a Kurd. But these figures could well be underestimated. Indeed, one or two bodies are found every day and not reported. The Sunni Arab and Shiite communities have accused each other of being behind the death squads responsible for these extra-legal executions. Many middle-level Baath leaders are among those killed.
A wave of bomb attacks in Suleimaniyah, hitherto spared from violence, took place a few hours after the organisation of a march by peshmergas before President Jalal Talabani. A triple suicide bomb attack against the convoy of a Kurdish leader and the peshmerga premises on 25 October caused 13 deaths and 26 injured. A kamikaze blew up his car bomb in front of the building containing the peshmergas in the city’s South side, causing 11 deaths. Some minutes earlier, two other suicide bombers had charged in their two car-bombs at a Kurdish leaders, Mullah Bakhtiar, a member of the Political Committee of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) as he was leaving his house. The target Mr. Bakhtiar escaped this double attack, but two of his bodyguards were killed the police announced. A fourth car bomb was discovered near the Ashti Hotel, in the city centre where foreign journalists are usually housed.
On 28 October, in the course of a raid on the house of a man suspected of being involved in this triple attack, two people were killed and a third wounded. The raid was carried out by “a mixed unit of police and Kurdish peshmergas in the Omar Kueir quarter, in the North East of the city”, indicated Sarkut Hassan, the Suleinaniyah security chief. Anti-tank rockets and light arms were used in the operation, he pointed out, adding that the suspect had set off an explosion against one wall of the building, killing a peshmerga officer and wounding another. The suspect, “a member of the extremist group Ansar al-Sunna was wounded during the raid and died while being transferred to hospital”. “The security forces had identified the cells responsible for this triple attack and tried to arrest them to put them on trial”, indicated Sarut Hassan, without giving any other details.
Furthermore, on 29 October, the sacking of the Mossul Police Chief, a member of the powerful Jubur tribe gave rise to protests by the Sunni Arabs against the Governorate Council, which has a Kurdish majority. Some 300 police and representatives of Sunni Arab tribes assembled in front of the Governorate offices in Mossul (370 Km North of Baghdad, to demand that General Ahmad Mohammad Khalaf al-Jubur, recently sacked “for corruption” be keep in his post by the Nineveh Provincial Council.
The sacked police chief, who has held this post since November 2004, who disputes the decision decided, on the same day and unilaterally, to free 93 detainees, incarcerated in the police station. Speaking before the rally, he denied the Kurdish-dominated Provincial Council “the right to represent this city”. This council is still in office “because the Sunni Arabs boycotted the general elections in January”. “Those who want to fire me seek to provoke chaos in the city to prevent the Sunni Arabs from participating in the general elections in December”, he claimed. The demonstrators also submitted a communiqué to the Governor, Duraid Kashmula, in which they rejected the decision to sack General Ahmad Mohammad Khalaf al-Jubur and demanded that he be kept in office.
On 27 October, the Baath Party, in power in Syria, announced that concrete measures would be taken to restore their nationality to Syrian Kurds who had had been deprived of it, and also to present a Bill on political parties. This promise of more internal openness comes at a time when Syria is under international pressure to carry out UN Security Council resolution 1595. This resolution enjoins all UN member states to cooperate with the international enquiry into the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafic Hariri. The report of the international commission of enquiry implicates Syrian and Lebanese leaders in this assassination and concluded that Syrian had not cooperated with the enquiry.
The official Syrian news agency, Sana, has indicated that the decisions regarding the Kurds and political parties were taken during a meeting of the Baath Party Central Committee “in line with the decisions of the party general congress and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s directives”. The Baath Party congress, which was held between 6 and 9 June, “affirmed the necessity of settling the problem of the 1962 census in Hassake and of working for the development of the region” in which the majority of the 1.5 million Syrian Kurds are settled. It also proposed “the adoption of a law on political parties and the revision of the electoral law” covering the organisation of local and general elections.
According to leaders of the various Syrian Kurdish parties, some 225,000 Kurds have been deprived of their Syrian nationality since the 1962 census, which deliberately left them out of the census. Kurdish leaders deny any secessionist aims and insist that they only want recognition of their language and their culture as well as their political rights.
Pending concrete measures for carrying out the regime’s promises, there had been no weakening of its repression against the Kurds. On 5 October, a Kurdish demonstration was dispersed by the police in Damascus, where the demonstrators had organised a sit-in mainly to protest at “the policy of oppression” and to demand “Syrian nationality”. According to a communiqué from the Kurdish Azadi (freedom) Party, “hundreds of Kurds met in Sahbandar Square, in Damascus, at the call of several parties to protest against the policy of oppression being carried out against the Kurds and against the results of the 1962 census”. The Azadi party “denounces, in this communiqué the repressive methods and expresses its solidarity with the Kurdish citizens whose nationality has been arbitrarily withdrawn”.
Furthermore, on 16 October the Syrian State Security Court sentenced two Kurds to two and a half years imprisonment for “membership of a secret organisation”. Members of the Democratic Union Party, a banned Syrian Kurdish Party, the two accused, Mohammad Mohammad and Mustapha Said Khalaf, were found guilty, by this special emergency court, of “membership of a secret organisation aiming at securing the annexation of part of Syrian territory by a foreign country”, declared their lawyer, Fayçal Badr. “This is the stock accusation made against any Kurd calling for a democratic and just solution to the Kurdish problem in the context of Syria's territorial unity”, added Mr. Badr. The lawyer described the State Security Court, created under a state of emergency law that has been in force since 1963, as “unconstitutional”.
On 16 October, the Syrian opposition launched an appeal for “democratic change” in a document entitled the “Damascus Declaration”, signed by several parties of the communist, nationalist and liberal opposition and by the Kurdish parties. The document, which also has the support of the Moslem Brothers, was addressed “to all the parties that want a change”, including the reformist trend within the Baath Party. The following are wide extracts from this declaration:
Syria is facing, today, more serious dangers than it has ever faced before because of policies pursued by the regime, which have led the country to a very worrying situation for its national security and the future of its population (…) The monopolising of public life by those in power for over thirty years has allowed the founding of a hegemonic, totalitarian and sectarian regime and the annulling of all political life. The citizens are outside public affairs. The legacy left is a disaster, represented by the crumbling away of the social and national fabric of the Syrian people and by economic collapse that threatens the country with all kinds of crises (…)
All these things require the mobilisation of Syria’s national and popular energies, a mission of change allowing the transformation of the country from a security ridden State to a political State (…) The changes required cover all areas: the State, the authorities and society. They must lead to a transformation of policies — as much of domestic as of foreign affairs.
The signatories have agreed, voluntarily and consensually, on the following principles:
The signatories of this Declaration consider that the process of change has already begun. It is an urgent necessity for the country that cannot be delayed (…). We commit ourselves to working to finish with despotism. We are ready to make all the sacrifices necessary to this end and to provide all the efforts to get the process of democratic change under way, so as to build a new Syria, belonging to all its citizens, and to defend the freedom of its people and its national independence.
On 27 October, the European Court for Human Rights again found Ankara guilty of having inflicted penal punishments on the editor in chief of a daily paper that had published, in 1995, a bitter article on the Army’s attitude to the Kurds. The petitioner has died in the meantime and it was to his widow that damages totalling 4,500 euros were awarded.
Mr. Ali Erol was the chief editor of the daily paper Evrensel (Universal), which published, in December 1995, an interview with a non-commissioned officer who had served his period of military service in Turkish Kurdistan. This interview highlighted the hatred of the army towards the Kurds. On 9 May 1996, the Istanbul State Security Court sentenced Mr. Erol to two years imprisonment and a fine as well as banning the paper for 20 days. The charge, ironically enough, was “incitement to hatred” on the basis of racial or regional differences and provoking disaffection towards military service.
The European Court for Human Rights considered that the facts raised did not justify interference with the right of a journalist to freedom of expression, because the article did not incite its readers to acts of violence, nor to armed resistance or uprisings. Consequently, in the view of the Strasbourg Court, the sentence was “disproportionate” and constituted a violation of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights, guaranteeing freedom of expression. The court, moreover, confirmed its constant jurisprudence by finding Ankara lacking in independence and impartiality (Article 6 of the Convention) because of the presence of an Army judge on the bench of the State Security Court.
Furthermore, on 13 October, the European Human Rights Court found Turkey guilty of police violence committed during a wedding, which had (according to the police) “degenerated” into a demonstration in favour of the PKK. On 18 July 1992, Vedat Gunaydin, 40 years of age, living in Diyarbekir, was arrested during this police operation, with nine other people. Examined by a doctor, Vedat Gunaydin had various injuring, including an oedema on the shoulder. He stated that he was only at the wedding to do the catering. Sentenced on 21 February 1994, by the Diyarbekir State Security Court, to 20 months imprisonment as well as a fine his sentence was later reduced to a ten month suspended sentence.
The Strasbourg judges rued that there was a violation of Article 3, forbidding inhuman and degrading treatment. They awarded 10,000 euros to Vedat Gunaudin. The verdict also ruled that there had been violation of Article 6, because of the lack of impartiality and independence of the State Security Court.
On 6 October, the European Court for Human Rights (ECHR) found Turkey guilty of having failed to investigate adequately a death and a disappearance in Diyarbekir. The Court considered that Ankara had violated Article 2 (the right to life) of the European Human Rights Convention by forbearing from carrying out “effective enquiries” into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mahmut Y., suspected of being a PKK activist, who died in Diyarbekir Army hospital on 5 December 1997, and of the disappearance of Ihsan Haran, in the same region in December 1994. According to the gendarmes’ report, Mahmut Y. had fallen while being detained by the Siirt gendarmes. The autopsy had concluded that the cause of death was a sub-dural haematoma that could have been caused by a fall. The court, however, rejected the allegations by his parents that their son had died as a consequence of torture, considering that this hypothesis was not supported by “tangible evidence”. But it decided to award them 20,000 euros damages and 3,170 costs because of violation of article 2.
In the case Ihsan Haran, the ECHR also considered that there was not “sufficient evidence to conclude, beyond reasonable doubt, that he had been secretly detained and killed by agents of the State” as his widow maintained. But it did recognise that the Turkish authorities had “failed to carry out an adequate and effective enquiry” into his disappearance and decided to award 10,000 euros damages and 4,000 euros casts, to the widow.
On 27 October, a Turkish Court ruled against banning a teachers’ trade union that proposed the use of the Kurdish language in public schools, thus ending a legal sagas that was closely followed by the European Union. The Court considered that there was no need to ban the Egitim-Sen trade union, since the latter had already withdrawn from its constitution the objective of introducing “education in the mother tongue” (thus that of Kurdish) in public schools.
The Turkish Constitution forbids the use of any other languages than Turkish in public education, even if Kurdish can now be taught in private lessons. Egitim-Sen, that has some 200,000 members, amended its constitution in July after an appeal court had cancelled a ruling rejecting the closing down of the union, on the grounds that “education in the mother tongue will endanger the unity of the State”. The trade union’s leaders stated that their priority was to save the union from being banned but that they continued to argue in favour of teaching children in their mother tongue, even if this objective is no monger in their constitution.
Representatives of the European Union have criticised the legal proceedings against Egitim-Sen, seeing there a proof of the pressure that continues to be exercised against Non-Governmental Organisations. On 4 October Turkey began negotiations for membership of the European Union, which remains very alert to human rights issues in that country. On 9 November, the European Commission is due to publish its annual report on Ankara’s progress in aligning itself on European standards.
On morning of 24 October, there was an outbreak of incidents at Eskinsehir (Western Turkey) on the resumption of the trial of four policemen. Which the Human Rights Defence associations have made a new test case of the firmness of Turkey’s commitment to a state of laws. The police “pulled in for questioning” 12 demonstrators of a group of 40 people wishing to attend the trial of the murderers of a Kurd and his 12-year-old son. Having been forbidden entry to the Assize Court, these people started throwing stones at the riot police who began to arrest them. The President of the Turkish Association for Human Rights, Mr. Yusuf Alatas, was also banned from entering the Courtroom.
Major security measures had been taken in the town, with the arrival of reinforcements and armoured cars from neighbouring towns. The Court is due to rule on the death of Ahmet Kaymaz and his 12-year-old son, Ugur, shot down in November in front of their house in Kiziltepe, a town in the Kurdish province of Mardin.
The police maintained that the father and the child had been killed during an operation against armed Kurdish fighters, but the local human rights defenders and their neighbours insist that the victims were not armed. A parliamentary enquiry concluded that there had been “serious negligence” by the police and considered that Kaymaz and his son could have been captured without any bloodshed.
The trial began in Mardin in February, before being transferred to Eskisehir at the request of the defence lawyers, who claimed that they feared for the safety of their clients. This trial is considered as a test of Turkey’s commitment to ensuring the respect and observance of a State of laws at a time when it is engaged in negotiations for membership of the European Union.