The Iraqis of all communities voted massively on 15 December to elect their members of Parliament in a poll that was marked by a relative calm and strong competition between candidates. Some 15 million electors ware called upon to elect the 275 members of the new Parliament. The electors had to choose between 7,655 candidates put forwards by 307 “political entities” and 19 coalitions standing. About 70% of the Iraqi electors took part in the elections, at 33,000 polling stations — a marked increase over he last elections. Over 23,000 Iraqis residing in Germany, but also in Spain, Poland and in Holland voted in Germany in the course of the last three days. “The number of those who took part in the election must be somewhere between 10 and 11 million electors, according to our first estimates” declared a senior official of the electoral commission, Farid Ayar. The figures for participation were 59% at the January general elections, while for the constitutional referendum they increased to 63%. The increase can mainly be explained by the unprecedented participation of the Sunni Arab minority, which had abstained from the January polls.
The Shiite list came first in five provinces South of Baghdad, while the Kurdish alliance won overwhelmingly in Kurdistan, according to unofficial results of the poll. The result of the Unified Iraqi Alliance (UIA) is no surprise, these Shiite provinces being massively behind this list, which unites the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) led by Abdel Aziz Hakim, the Dawa Party, led by outgoing Prime Minister al Jaafari and the Moqtada Sadr’s radical trend. It was in Kerbala Province that this list is said to have secured its higher score, with 85% of the vote according to results given on 16 December by sources close to the electoral commission. In Missan province, according to a Dawa Party official, Latif Abud, it won 86% — but this is subject to confirmation. At Najaf is said to have won 80%, with a turnout of the same order, while at Qaddissiya the score is said to be as high as 86% according to sources close to the electoral commission. In Babylon Province, 70% of the 749,000 electors are said to have voted for the AUI, accord to a source close to the electoral commission in provincial capital of Hilla.
In Kurdistan, the Alliance, that included the two main parties, the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), was overwhelmingly successful in the three provinces of the region. In Irbil it won 86% of the votes, followed by the Kurdish Islamic Party (3.4%) according to a PUK official. At Dohuk it won 76%, here again followed by the Kurdish Islamic Party 7%). Finally, in Suleimaniah it won 71% while the Islamic party won 8.3% — all according to the same source. The Kurdish coalition won an absolute majority, with 52% of the votes, according to incomplete results. The two main Sunni Arab lists won a total of 20% and the Turcoman list 11%
“This is a historic day and a cause for celebration for all Iraqis” proclaimed, for his part, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, who was the first to cast his vote in a school in the city of Suleimaniah.
After having voted, an official of the Independent Electoral Commission, Hussein Hindawi pointed out that in the Sunni Arab province of Anbar, still the scene of military offensives, 162 polling stations were open as against 207 planned. To everyone’s surprise, Saddam Hussein’s supporters, who had been so strongly opposed to the January elections, called on the Sunni Arab community (of which most of them are embers) to vote and on the al Qaida activists not to disturb the elections. This call by the Baathists could be the sign of a growing split between Saddam Hussein’s supporters and the jihadist Moslem trend. In January the Association of Sunni scholars had urged the community to boycott the poll. Today the organisation says it is neutral, though some of its members have presented participation in the elections as a “religious duty”. The Islamic Conference Organisation also urged the Iraqi Sunni Arabs “massively” to take part in the elections to strengthen their position. The Council of Moslem Ulemas, the principal Sunni clerical organisation in Iraq, had announced, on 6 December, that it would not be taking part in the 15 December elections while not call for them to be boycotted.
The final results are expected around the first week of January. According to preliminary results, the Unified Iraqi Alliance is in the lead but does not seem to have enough of a majority to govern on its own. It may win 130 — far from the 184 needed to avoid having to form a coalition with other parties. The Kurds may win 55 seats and the main Sunni Arab parties about fifty, with Allawi’s coalition probably winning 25.
Kurdistan was bubbling over with post elections discussions between the Kurdish parties and those on the Shiite Unified Iraqi Alliance, which are in the lead. Negotiations on the setting up of a “great coalition”, aimed at easing the ethnic and religious tensions intensified by the elections began with the visit to Irbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, of Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Thus the leader of the Shiite coalition met, successively, Massud Barzani and Jalal Talabani, the present Iraqi President and leader of the second Kurdish party, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK). “We have agreed on the principle of forming a government with a broad popular base, involving all the parties”, declared Massud Barzani, President of Iraqi Kurdistan at a press conference given jointly with Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Le latter, whose party has been running the government, alongside the Kurdish block, for the last year, is next due to meet President Jalal Talabani. A Sunni Arab delegation is also due, for the first time ever, to visit Iraqi Kurdistan and meet the Kurdish leaders.
Welcomed from Canberra to Washington, including capitals like Rome and Moscow, the 16 December elections aroused no official reactions from the neighbouring countries, even if the Arab press saw it as a democratic advance for the country. In Washington, US President G.W. Bush described the elections as “an important step forward” towards American objectives for Iraq. British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, and his Foreign Minister, Jack Straw, for their part, welcomed these “completely free” elections as a “historic day”. The UN General Secretary, Kofi Annan, also welcomed the smooth running of the elections, while hoping that “everyone would accept the results and observe the rules, and that everyone would cooperate to form a national government”.
The Arab press in the region, indeed, stressed the massive turnout for the poll and particularly that of the Sunni Arabs, who had stayed away from the polls in January. In Europe, France and Germany, that had opposed the American intervention in Iraq in 2003, made no comments immediately following the elections. Even Russia, hostile to the intervention in 2003, welcomed “the outcome of the transition period”, which opens “a new page in contemporary Iraqi history”. No Middle Eastern country has yet reacted officially, except for Turkey. Ankara evoked “an important stage in the political process in Iraq”. However, the Arab press welcomed this historic poll. “The whole of Iraq voted” headlined the Saudi financed London based daily Asharq al-Awsat, observing that “election day went by peacefully”. “It was the voice of the Iraqi people that was heard yesterday, not terrorist bombs”, pointed out the English language daily Arab News. The Emirate daily, Al-Ittihad welcomed “the massive participation of the Sunni Arabs” as did the Lebanese An-Nahar, which considered that this participation “gives legitimacy to the elections”. “The Sunnis voted in force in the first parliamentary elections in Iraq” headlined Egypt’s semi-governmental daily Al-Ahram. “It is democracy, not electoral boycotting or extremist groups that will protect the Sunnis and preserve their position in Iraq. This consensus is capable of getting Iraq out of its crisis and laying the first stone for the country’s return to full sovereignty, which will enable the government to ask for the withdrawal of foreign troops”, noted Al-Ahram’s editorial.
The first general elections in Iraq since the ratification of the Constitution in October will enable the election of Members of Parliament responsible for setting up a government whose term of office should be for four years. During this period, the United States and its coalition partners should gradually reduce their military presence in favour of Iraqi forces. Of the 275 seats, 230 are allocated to the 18 provinces and 45, called “national seats” will be allocated to parties that failed to win any seat at provincial level, but whose national score was sufficiently high. The substantial degree of participation gives the new National Assembly, due to sit for the next four years, a strong legitimacy for the first time since the fall of Saddam Hussein. Indeed, the outgoing parliament, the first elected by universal suffrage since the intervention in Iraq, only sat for eleven months. The new M.P.s will have to choose a Prime Minister who will form a government and a Presidential Council consisting of a Head of State and two Vice-Presidents.
The haggling to form a broader government has begun in Iraq. The outgoing Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari, arrived in Kurdistan on 31 December to meet the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, while President Jalal Talabani was due to meet the Speaker of the House, Hajem al-Hassani.
The three leaders of the Concord list (Sunni Arab), Adnan al-Dulaimi, Tariq al-Hashimi and Khalaf al-Ulayan, also arrived in Irbil for discussions with Mr. Barzani. A representative of Moqtada Sadr’s radical trend, made public, for his part, the fact that they had contacts with the Concord list and declared that his group, which had stood in the 15 December elections on the Shiite list, was in favour of maintaining in office the outgoing Prime Minister, Ibrahim Jaafari. The latter had already been put forward as candidate for this by his Dawa Party, one of the two pillars of the United Iraqi Alliance, alongside the Supreme Council of the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, led by Abdel Aziz al-Hakim.
For this part, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI) made a very public visit to Kurdistan, in the course of which he stressed the “strategic alliance” between the Shiites and the Kurds, which had formed the outgoing government. On 29 December, Mr. Hakim met Jalal Talabani, who champions the idea of a government of national unity. “The Kurdish coalition and the Shiite alliance have agreed on the principle of a government of national unity”, Mr. Talabani stated to the Press at Dokan, a holiday resort some 400 Km from Baghdad. He stressed, however, that association with other parties had to be on the basis of a programme. “The other parties must believe in certain principles”, he pointed out, citing in particular “the rejection of terrorism”. In this context, Mr. Talabani stressed, with regard to the Sunni Arab leader Saleh Motlak, that “he cannot be with the terrorists at night and with us in the daytime”. For his part Mr. Hakim praised the “strategic alliance” between his people and the Kurds, pillars of the outgoing government. “Our alliance does not mean the exclusion of others and is directed against no one”, he stated.
Before meeting Mr. Talabani, Mr. Hakim met the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, who advocated a cabinet with a “broad popular basis”. After the discussions, the outgoing Foreign Minister, Hoshyar Zebari, explained the country’s need for a government of national unity. “Our two list could, by themselves, form a government, but this would not be in the interests of Iraq at this moment”, he declared to the press. “It is necessary to form a government of national unity with the participation of other parties” he added, stressing the need to form this cabinet rapidly.
The Shiite coalition warned, even before the beginning of negotiations, that the next Prime Minister would be either the present incumbent, Ibrahim Jaafari or Vice-President Adel Abdel Mahdi. “The choice lies between those two. They are the candidates of the Alliance and there is not a third one”, declared an authorised source with in the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA). Mr. Jaafari, head of the Dawa Party, has already experience of the task, which he has been carrying out since last April. However, his record as Prime Minister could count against him, stressed some people in the Alliance. His government has not succeeded in subduing the terrorists and ordinary Iraqis also criticise him for not having restored basic public services. Some doubts about his democratic reliability have also arisen since the discovery, in the autumn of a secret prison managed by the Ministry of the Interior. This affair is fuelling the suspicions of systematic violations of human rights by Shiite militia working for the government.
Adel Abdel Mahdi, a former Minister of finance, enjoys, for his part, the support of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), the other major component of the UIA. An economist, who speaks both French and English, he has spent many years in exile in France. Mr. Mahdi has good relations with the Kurds and Washington regards him as a moderate.
The United States, which is trying, in the background, to influence the course of political events in Iraq, do not hide their irritation with Mr. Jaafari. Apart from the economy and human rights, the American hold against him his links with Iran. The Iraqi Prime Minister could also suffer from his bad relations with the Kurdish partners in the outgoing coalition. The Kurds criticise him for failing to respect the coalition agreement and of failing to support their claims to the city of Kirkuk. “We were not satisfied with this alliance because they did not observe the agreement protocol established between us”, the President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani had declared two days before the 15 December poll. “This does not mean that we will cancel this alliance, but we are seeking to widen it”, he had added. In the opinion of the Kurdish analyst and writer, Abdelguani Ali Yehya, there had never really been an alliance between the two parties. “They agreed on certain points without really allying themselves”, he stated. He considered that the political gap between the UIA and the Kurds is too great “particularly over the question of Kirkuk”. Sami Shoresh, Kurdistan Minister of Culture explains that every party that wants to be allied to the Kurds must fulfil certain conditions. “It must support the rights of the Kurdish people in the framework of a federal Iraq, allow the annulment of the Arabisation of Kirkuk and adopt a democratic basis, which is the only means of preserving Kurdish rights”, he states. “We must finalise a political programme with our eventual allies before forming a government”, declared, for his part Adnan Mufti, Speaker of the Kurdistan Parliament.
Many and serious problems appeared between the UIA and the Kurds after the formation of their alliance, particularly during the drawing up of the Constitution, on such subjects as the place of Islam in the law, on the role of women and on federalism. President Jalal Talabani had even gone so far as to accuse the UIA’s Prime Minster, Ibrahim Jaafari, of monopolising power and hence forward is demanding more substantial prerogatives for the Head of State.
The Dutch courts have ruled that there had indeed been genocide against the Kurdish population of Iraq, particularly at Halabja in March 1988 — a massacre that killed 5,000 people in a single day. But the court ruled that the 63-year-old businessman did not know the genocidal intentions of the former Iraqi regime. However, “the war crimes in which he took part are extremely serious and caused the death of many people” the court observed. Recognised guilty of collusion with war crimes, the Dutch businessman, Frans van Anraat was sentenced to 15 years imprisonment for having sold Saddam Hussein’s Iraq tons of chemicals used for carrying out gas attacks.
This man had been charges before the Court at The Hague in the basis of a Dutch Supreme Court ruling that Dutch courts had universal competence for trying persons suspected of war crimes or crimes against humanity if they were resident in the country.
The court found that the accused had sold tons of active chemicals while knowing that they would be used by Saddam Hussein for making lethal gases during the Iraqi-Iranian war of 1980 to 1988 as well as against the Kurdish population of Iraq, particularly in the village of Halabja in 1988. “His deliveries enabled these attacks and they constitute a serious war crime. It is no answer that this would have happened in any case even without his contribution”, declared the presiding judge to the court. “Even the maximum sentence (of 15 years) is insufficient in view of the seriousness of these acts”, he added. The defence lawyers have announced that they would be appealing against this verdict.
Over fifty of the victims’ relatives, some in traditional clothing, were present, with interpreters, at the hearing, from which Van Anraat was absent. Fifteen Kurds of Iran and Iraq had taken civil, action before this court each claiming symbolic damages of 680 euros — the maximum allowable under Dutch law at the time of the events. Although this is the first time that a court has passed a sentence regarding the Halabja massacre, this decision is unlikely to have much effect on the work of the Iraqi Special Court.
The United Nations inspectors had described Frans van Anraat as one of Saddam Hussein’s most important intermediaries for procuring chemical weapons. The accused was arrested in December 2004 at his home as he was preparing to leave Holland. He had been arrested in the first instance in Milan, in 1989, at the request of the United States, before being released two months later. H then sought refuge in Iraq, where he lived under a false identity provided by members of the old regime: Faris Mansur Rasheed al Bazzaz, which means “brave and intelligent cloth merchant”. He lived there until the American intervention in 2003, when he returned to Holland via Syria.
The Prosecution declared that van Anraat had been involved in the sale to Iraq of over 1,000 tons of thiodiglycol — an industrial chemical that is a component part of mustard gas — 800 tons of which were used on the battlefields. The court’s presiding judge also stated that the accused had shown no remorse since he sought to sell other consignments of thiodiglycol after having seen pictures of the Halabja massacre, in which 5,000 people were killed.
On 4 December, Massud Barzani, the President of Iraqi Kurdistan, denied the presence on Kurdistan of Israeli instructors who, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Aharonot, had come to train Kurdish fighters. “This information is completely untrue”, declared Mr. Barzani to the press following a meeting with the Head of State in Irbil.
On 1 December, the Israeli daily, Yediot Aharonot, reported that dozens of Israeli instructors, sent to Kurdistan by private companies specialised in the security, were training Kurdish fighters in a “secret” military base. According to the paper, the Israeli companies were also building an international airport in the Irbil region, Hawler Airport. “Irbil Airport is open and planes from many countries are landing there every day”, he added. “The peshmergas don’t need anyone to train them”, stated Mr. Barzani.
On 30 December, the other hand, the South Korean National Assembly adopted the government’s plan to withdraw a third of the South Korean troops stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan and to extend by a year the mandate of the remaining troops. The government’s plan involved the withdrawal of one third of the 3,200 South Korean soldiers working in Iraqi Kurdistan, where they are responsible for helping with the reconstruction.
Furthermore, on 6 December three Kurds, one of whom was a candidate for the 15 December elections, were killed in attacks against the offices of the Kurdistan Islamic Union. Mushir Ahmad, a leader of the Union and a candidate in the coming elections, died in the attack on the Party’s Committee Rooms in the town of Dohuk. Two other members of the party died in another attack at Zakho and several other people were wounded in acts of violence against Committee Rooms in four other towns in Dohuk Province.
The Iraqi Islamic Party, Iraq’s principal Sunni political organisation, condemned these attacks, which took place “in Kurdistan, a region that enjoys, more than others, stability, democracy and freedom of expression”. The President of Kurdistan, Massud Barzani, for his part, rejected these attacks. “We refuse to countenance this sort of behaviour and condemn it”, he stated in a communiqué. “In Kurdistan, all the parties are free under the law and we will no allow any violation of this freedom”, added Mr. Barzani, calling on the Dohuk authorities to put an end to it. The Islamic Union, which had been part of the Kurdish coalition during the January elections, is standing alone in the 15 December polls.
On 10 December, Syrian security forces dispersed a sit-in in Damascus, organised by the opposition. About fifty people, who had gathered in the centre of the Syrian capital, were soon after dispersed by the anti-riot police. The National Democratic Rally (NDR), a coalition of five banned parties, which, in principle, was due to take part in this sit-in to celebrate World Human Rights Day, as it does every year, had decided at a meeting on the day before not to take part in this event. The NDR took this decision because of “the situation through which the country is going and the outside pressures at present weighing on Syria”, declared Aziz Daoui, a leader of the Kurdish Democratic and Progressive Party. The demonstrators demanded, during their sit-in, observance “of the principles of human rights and a just solution to the Kurdish question in the framework of the country’s unity”. They also called for the restoration of Syrian nationality to the Kurds from whom it had been withdrawn. The demonstrators also demanded that the Syrian authorities “annul the State of Emergency and grant civil liberties” to the population.
Moreover, the trial of the Syrian opposition activist, Hassan Abdel Azim, spokesman of the NDR, which began on the same day, before a Damascus military court, was postponed till 19 January 2006 reported the Arab Human Rights Organisation (AHRO) in a communiqué. Some American diplomats attended the military court’s hearing. Mr. Abdel-Azim is accused of “being in possession of (banned) publications”, an allusion to the NDR paper, Al Mawaqef al-Dimucrati, which has been appearing regularly since 1991. “AHRO expresses its anxiety at the repeated violations of the Constitution by the Syrian authorities and asks them to drop the charges against Abdel-Azim”, adds the AHRO spokesman, Amar Qorabi.
On 18 December, the Syrian State Security Court also sentenced a Kurd to two years imprisonment for membership of “a secret organisation”, reported Mr. Anouar Bounni, the Human Rights legal activist. Mohammad Dib Bilal, a member of the Democratic Union Party, a banned Kurdish organisation, was arrested in January 2004. “His state of health has deteriorated because of the conditions of his detention”, stressed Mr. Bounni.
On the other hand, the Court postponed to next year the trial of fourteen Kurds, incarcerated for nearly a year, and “accused of belonging to al-Qaida”, Ussama ben Laden’s terrorist organisation. These defendants have announced their intention of “beginning a hunger strike today” along with about thirty of their comrades incarcerated in the Sayadnaya prison near Damascus, “to protest against the conditions under which they are being detained”, added Mr. Bounni, who describes these trials as “unjust” and “unconstitutional”.
On 20 December, the French League for the Rights of Man (LDH) and a Frenchman of Lebanese origin stated that on 15 December they had registered a complaint against X with the Public Prosecutor’s Office at Nanterre (just outside Paris) for “arrest, arbitrary detention, torture and ill-treatment” perpetrated in Syria. “During a recent stay in Syria, my client was victim of an arbitrary arrest and detention, of torture and ill-treatment, act prohibited by international conventions and which are breaches of the French Penal Code”, explained Mr. Patrick Baudouin. “On 5 September 2005, while he was travelling from Lebanon to Syria, Mr. F. was stopped by the Syrian customs at a border post, as a result of confusion with someone else of the same name”, declared, for its part the LDH in a communiqué. “After a fairly violent first interrogation, during which the mistake over his identity became apparent, he was taken to Damascus, to detention centre 235, better known as the “Palestine Branch”, which is run by the military secret services”, according to the League. “My client was then beaten, in particular with an electric cable and an iron bar. Then he was placed for ten days in a tiny, dark and unventilated cell with about fifty other people before finally being released on 15 September without receiving any explanation”, added Mr. Baudouin. The International Federation for the Rights of Man (FIDH) has associated itself with the registration of this complaint.
Furthermore, on 4 December there were clashes between “activists” and Syrian security forces on the road running from Aleppo city centre to its Airport. The Al-Arabiya TV network also reported clashes between soldiers and activists at Aleppo, the first in the region for three months. It is not known if there were any victims of these clashes nor to what group the activists belonged. Amar Qorabi also announced that 11 islamists, arrested over a year ago, were brought before the High State Security Court in Damascus. “Eleven people, natives of al-Oteiba (20 Km East of Damascus) appeared before the Damascus High State Security Court for the fourth time, charged with belonging to the salafist trend” (which preaches a return to early sources of Islam) said Mr. Korbi. Following these hearings, the trial was postponed till 2 April it was pointed out. The Syrian authorities arrested these people “about a year and a half ago”. They have forbidden their families to visit them in the Sidnaya Prison (40 Km North-East of Damascus) according to Mr. Korbi, who has asked that “the accused be sent before an ordinary court instead of the High State Security Court, which is unconstitutional, and that their families be allowed to visit them”.
Eight other activists were killed by the Syrian security forces during a clash on 8 December at Idlib, in Northern Syria. The Syrian soldiers killed five extremists while three others committed suicide before being captured, pointed out the Syrian press agency SANA. The Agency indicated that the activists belonged to the “takfiri” group, a reference to activists who consider that Moslems who do not share their views are “infidels”.
Terrorist attacks are rare in Syria, a tightly controlled country where the regime uses severe methods of repressing islamist extremists as well as all forms of instability, but several clashes involving “activists” have occurred this year. On 2 September the Syrian security forces killed five members of the extremist group Jund al-Shams (Soldiers of the East) in the North of Syria and seized bombs and arms in an operation that enabled the authorities to foil several terrorist plans. The Syrian forces also acted against another Jund al-Shams cache in Damascus, killing two of the activist. A member of the security forces was also killed. This group had been formed in Afghanistan by Syrians, Palestinians and Jordanians linked to Abu Massab al-Zarqawi, the al-Qaida boss in Iraq. In July, clashes took place between security forces and activists (including former members of the bodyguard of Saddam Hussein, former Iraqi President, and other men involved in the Iraqi insurrection) in an area overlooking Damascus.
The Syrian authorities are trying to show the Americans that they are actively fighting against the islamist— and at the same time welcoming Americans that are cast in the same mould as themselves… Thus, at the beginning of the month of August, the well known Louisiana politician, David Dukes, visited Syria, where he made an anti-Semitic speech attacking “the Zionist who are occupying New York and the State of Israel”. This speech was broadcast by the Syrian television network. David Duke, who is a white supremacist and former “Knight” of the Klu Klux Klan, declared, addressing the crowd in Damascus “my country is occupied by the Zionists, like the Golan heights”. In its latest edition, Duke’s web site quotes a Syrian Member of Parliament, Muhammad Habash, who talks of “Duke’s magnificent visit”. Habash is said to have added: “He brought us a new perspective of the average American”.
On 20 December, the European Union accused Iran of serious and repeated human rights violations and of executing children in a statement published on the eve of the resumption of nuclear discussions with Teheran in Vienna. “The fact that the human rights situation in Iran has not improved in regent years and in certain respects has even worsened, deeply worries the E.U.”, stressed this statement published by the British presidency.
“Iran has executed more children in 2005 than in recent years”, the E.U. charges, adding that “the recourse to the death sentence is frequent, including for minor crimes and the executions often take place in public”. “Freedom of expression is still severely limited. Censorship on Internet and in the press is widespread”, adds the E.U.
“High-ranking people have reported important lapses in the conduct of the June 2005 presidential elections and the process allowing the selection of candidates to be allowed to stand out of the many wishing to stand was not democratic”, the statement points out. “We continue to receive information regarding about torture” adds the E.U. “Human rights activists continue to report harassment and intimidation and Iran continues to detain prisoners of conscience like Akbar Ganji and his lawyer Abdolfattah Soltani”.
“The way that Iran treats its ethnic and religious minorities also worries us”, continued the British presidency of the E.U. “We call on Iran to show, by its actions, a commitment to observing human rights” and to reopen the dialogue on human rights that took place between 2002 and 2004. According to this document, the declaration commits the 25 but also has the support of Bulgaria, Rumania, Croatia, Turkey, Macedonia, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the Ukraine, and Moldavia.
On 18 December, US Vice President Dick Cheney, made a surprise visit to Iraq where he met President Jalal Talabani and Prime Minister Ibrahim Jaafari. This is Mr. Cheney’s first visit to Iraq since the US intervention there in March 2003. Mr. Cheney considered that “the level of participation (in the elections) throughout the country is remarkable”, following a meeting in Baghdad with the principal US military commanders. “This is exactly what must take place in the course of the setting up of a political structure (…), which can unite the different components of the population and, in time, be responsible for security”, he added to journalist. The Vice President arrived in the morning in Baghdad, where he met Messrs. Talabani and Jaafari separately. He also made a visit to the US military base at Taji, to the North of the capital, where he greeted the American and Iraqi troops.
Dick Cheney’s visit was followed by that of US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who arrived, unexpectedly, to meet the heads of the US contingent there and evaluate the situation with them. Coming from Afghanistan, the US Secretary of Defence was welcomed to Baghdad airport, on 22 December, by General George Casey, commander of US forces in Iraq. The next day, Donald Rumsfeld chose Falluja to announce his country’s intention of withdrawing two combat brigades, that is between 5,000 and 9,000 soldiers, by the spring of 2006.
Furthermore, the British Prime Minister, Tony Blair, also made a brief and unexpected visit to Basra to keep up the moral of the British troops on the eve of Christmas. Speaking from the top of a tank carrier, at the logistic base of Shaiba, near the Southern metropolis, the Labour Prime Minister assured them that their presence in Iraq was contributing to the security of the country, of the Middle East and of the whole world in the face of international terrorism. “It is important to help this country, and the only way to do this is to bring it security so that the Iraqi forces can be consolidated — then we can reduce our own capacities”, he insisted, Tony Blair, for whom this is the fourth visit to Iraq since March 2003, met the British and American military leaders to be informed on security matters following the 15 December elections. General George Casey, Commander of the US forces in Iraq, assured the British Prime Minister that, by the summer, the Iraqis would have taken charge of 75%of the security in certain regions. Mr. Blair has, so far, refused to put forward any timetable for the withdrawal of the last 8,000 of his troops at present in Iraq, but seemed to consider, on 22 December, that the smooth running of the elections marked a turning point.
Comparer with Baghdad, that the US forces have difficulty in controlling, the region of Basra, controlled by British troops, is relatively calm, but violence has broken our in the last few months. At the beginning of the war, Britain had committed 45,000 men. Their losses, over the three years total 98 dead, a figure that cannot be compared with the 2,160 men lost by the United States.
The US army recorded almost identical losses on 2005 as in 2004 — but with some notable political advances. The last death of a GI, on 31 December, as a result of wounds following a mortar attack in Baghdad, brought the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq in 2005 to 842, 65 of whom in the month of December alone. In 2004 and 2003 the US losses were 846 and 485 respectively.
Violence continues, moreover, in this month of December devoted to the elections, despite Americano-Iraqi military operations to subdue the terrorists. In Baghdad, on 8 December, a suicide bomber set off the explosive belt he was wearing while sitting in a coach leaving for the mainly Shiite town of Nassiriyah, in Southern Iraq, causing at least 30 deaths and 40 injured according to Iraqi hospital sources. Eleven corpses were found on 5 December, near the small town of Rutba, 370 Km West of the Iraqi capital, in Anbar province, just of the main Baghdad-Amman highway. The corpses were all in civilian dress. On the same day, he police also discovered the bodies of nine civilians who had been shot, beside a road in the area of Falluja, 50 Km west of the capital.
Iraqi President, Jalal Talabani, in a message of good wishes for 2006, stated that “the problems of security, of electricity and water persist and I hope that they will be the priorities of the new government, which we hope will be one of national union”. He drew a contrasted picture of 2005, paying particular attention to the successes that, in his eyes were the elections, the adoption of a permanent Constitution, the trial of the dictator Saddam Hussein and of social measures in favour of old age pensioners and people with low incomes. “The trial of Saddam Hussein shows the difference between the summary trials of the old regime of complete injustice and those of the new era, where the accused have the right of speech and can even use it to be insulting”, he stated in particular on the public television channel Iraqia. He noted, amongst the year’s successes “the progress in the training and equipping of the security forces” while recognising the persistence of acts of terrorism and the neglect of public services.
Mr. Talabani also recognised “violations of human rights here and there”, and hoped for “a legal and moral response to the corruption that is gangrening the administrative bodies”. He also called on the religious leaders, particularly the Sunnis, to condemn, without ambiguity, the terrorist acts, before going on to wish a prosperous year all Iraqis, who in addition to violence, are suffering from a shortage of fuel due to successive threats and to the rise in petrol prices.
For his part the outgoing Prime Minister, the Shiite leader Ibrahim Jaafari, in his wishes, considered that “the political process overcame all the obstacles” in 2005, with reference to the Constitutional referendum of 15 October and the general elections of 15 December. “The Iraqis have proved that they value their unity, an unshakeable unity” he added, before hoping that the new Parliament would be representative of all the Iraqi communities without exception and inviting all these communities to “build a new Iraq”.
On 29 December, the Istanbul Public Prosecutor closed, without further action, the case of a complaint filed against the Turkish writer, Orhan Pamuk, for “open attacks on the Army’s image”. Already being sued for his remarks on the massacre of Armenians committed under the Ottoman Empire —Turkey denies the reality of the genocide — Turkey’s most famous writer was targeted at the end of October by an association of nationalist jurists. “I do not see the AKP (the Justice and Development Party, at present in office) as a threat to democracy in Turkey. Unfortunately, the principal threat is the Army, that sometimes harms the development of democracy”, the writer had stated in the German daily Die Welt. The Prosecutor decided to dismiss the charge.
Mr. Pamuk is still, however, being sued for “deliberately insulting Turkish identity”. “A million Armenians and 30,000 Kurds have been killed on these lands, but no one besides me dares to say it”, he had stated in a Swiss magazine. The court responsible for the case has postponed the trial to 7 February, pending the decision of the Minister of Justice, who must decide whether to sue the writer or dismiss the case.
Article 301 of the new Turkish Penal Code, which cracks down on any insults to institutions or to Turkish identity, has served as a basis for legal actions against several intellectuals, including Mr. Pamuk and the Dutch Member of the European Parliament, Joost Lagendijk. Its use has been severely criticised by the European Union.
Still on the grounds of Article 301 of the new Penal Code, on 22 December, an Istanbul Court sentenced the writer Zulkuf Kisanak for insulting the Turkish State. The writer is the author of a book on the forcible evacuations, during the 20th Century, of Kurdish, Armenian and Christian villages. It has also punished the publisher Aziz Ozer for an article on Turkish policy towards Iraq. The two men were sentenced to five months jail, but this was later commuted to a fine of 2,200 dollars. Mr. Kisanak, in his book “The vanished villages” tells the stories of 14 Kurdish localities which have been evacuated in the course of the last century, particularly during the clashes with the PKK in the 90s.
Furthermore, on 2 December, the Turkish semi-official news agency, Anatolia, reported that five Turkish journalist are facing ten years jail for having criticised the decision of a court to block the holding of a conference on the massacres of Armenians under the Ottoman Empire. The journalist were charged by a Public Prosecutor under those articles of the law punishing insults to a magistrate or attempts to influence the course of justice the agency pointed out. Those charged are four journalists on the daily paper Radikal (the chief editor, Ismet Berkan, Erol Katircioglu, Haluk Sahin, and Murat Belge) as well as Hasan Cemal, columnist on the mass circulation daily Milliyet. Last September a court, to which a group of nationalist had complained, had blocked the holding of a conference organised by intellectuals who challenged Turkey’s official position on the massacres of Armenians that took place during the First World War. The conference, which had already been suspended a first time in May, finally took place a day late, its organisers having changed its venue to bye-pass the court.
“The recent modifications to the Penal Code are insufficient (…). Freedom of expression is still restricted and we must fight for it”, declared the president of the Turkish Pen Club, Vecdi Sayar, during a meeting organised by the media and foreign observers covering the Pamuk trial on 15 December. The new Turkish Penal Code came into force in June in the framework of major reforms undertaken by Ankara at the request of the European Union. “I do not understand why the E.U. approved (this document). If we are already being faced with problems in this respect it is because of the mentality (of the judiciary) and not of the law”, stressed Metin Celal Zeynioglu, secretary of the Union of Turkish publishers.
Turkey continued to exert pressure on the United States, taking advantage of the visit to Ankara on 11 December of the Director of the CIA, Porter Goss, to renew its demand that Washington act against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). “We have specific expectations regarding the United States, particularly regarding this separatist terrorist organisation”, stressed the Minister of Justice, Cemil Cicek, after a cabinet meeting. During his visit, Porter Goss met with the Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and with Army and Intelligence chiefs. According to the mass circulation daily Hurriyet, Mr. Goss was due to discuss with his Turkish opposite numbers, the strengthening of the struggle against the PKK, considered a terrorist organisation by both Washington and Ankara.
Mr. Goss’s visit to Ankara and that, two days later of the Director of the FBI, Robert Mueller, may forecast the taking or more concrete measures by Washington — including military operations against the PKK after the holding of general elections in Iraq on 15 December, considered Hurriyet. The daily paper also stressed the fact that General Yasar Buyukanit, commander of the Turkish land forces, is at present on a visit to the United States, where he met his American opposite number Peter Shoomaker and Pentagon officials.
Turkey has long been irritated by the US reluctance to act against the PKK bases set up in Iraqi Kurdistan, to which the PKK fighters had withdrawn after decreeing a unilateral cease-fire in 1999. It has even threatened to undertake military operations outside its own borders, in Iraqi Kurdistan, if the threat was not eliminated. But Washington has, so far, preferred to act at source, by drying up the group’s financial resources, to any military commitment
Violence in Turkish Kurdistan has considerably intensified since the beginning of 2005. Fighting between the PKK and the Turkish Army broke out on 9 December, in Sirnak province, near the village of Guclukonak, causing six deaths, including four soldiers. According to local officials, the fighting at Guclukonak followed an army operation against the PKK the day before, near this town. There were also outbreaks of violence in the evening near Silopi, another township in the same province, where three virtually simultaneous explosions in front of shops caused at least one person inured and material damage.
Tension in the Kurdish provinces escalated in November. There were violent demonstrations following a bomb attack on 9 November against a bookshop in the town of Semdinli, in Hakkari province, owned by a suspected former member of the PKK. The inhabitants and local councillors of Semdinli had accused elements of the army of secret services of being the originators of this attack, which caused one death. Five other people were killed in the riots that followed. The Turkish government, under pressure from the European Union to ensure the observance of democracy and the State of Law over the whole of the land, in view of its proposed membership, has promised to throw light on this attack.
Furthermore, fifty-six Kurdish mayors in Turkey called on the Danish government to resist Ankara’s demands to close down the Denmark-based Kurdish television channel, Roj TV, which is accused by Turkey of “links with the PKK”. “For a fully democratic life to flourish in Turkey, Roj TV must not be silenced”, stated the local councillors in a letter, in English, sent to the Danish Prime Minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen on 27 December. “Eliminating the voice of Roj TV would mean the loss of an important vector in the fight for democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms of a democratic civilisation”, they continued.
The mayors considered that the pressures being exercised by Turkey so as to ban Roj TV run counter to the declared objective being proclaimed by Turkey in its advance towards membership of the European Union, of improving it situation with respect to human rights. Ankara has asked the Danish authorities to cancel the broadcasting licence it had given Roj TV on the grounds that the channel was said to have links with the PKK. The Turkish authorities consider that the station, which has been broadcasting since March 2004, “incited hatred” by openly supporting the PKK. However the Danish body responsible for audio-visual surveillance considered, at the beginning of the year, that Roj TV’s programmes did not contain any incitement to hatred of Turkey. The Danish Minister of Foreign Affairs stated in November 2005 that he had found no proof of any links between the channel and the PKK.
For his part, on 2 December, the Turkish Foreign Minister, Abdullah Gul, declared that Turkey considered Iraqi Kurdistan was part of Turkey’s “hinterland”. “The north of Iraq is of interest to Turkey, it is part of our hinterland”, he maintained to the Turkish paper Aksam. Stressing that the “first priority” of his country was to safeguard Iraq’s territorial unity, the Minister considered that it is “because Turkey has contributed to it and authorised it” that Iraqi Kurdistan is in full expansion. “You cannot marginalise Turkey there”, he added. He also announced the inauguration of a Turkish consulate at Mossul without specifying the date, but indicated that he had appointed Huseyin Avni Botsali, a leading official in the Middle Eastern department, as consul.
On 12 December the European Union proposed starting negotiations with Iraq for a trade and cooperation agreement and committed itself to opening an office in Baghdad, announced senior European officials. “Iraq is at a turning point”, stressed the European Commissioner for External Relations and for External Neighbourly Policies, the Austrian Benita Ferrero-Waldner, during a signature ceremony with the Iraqi Ambassador to the European Union, Jawad al-Doreky.
“Iraq is entering a crucial stage (…). The Iraqis hope for a substantial partnership with the European Union and we intend to live up to their expectations”, declared Mrs. Benita Ferrero-Waldner. “Negotiations on the trade and cooperation agreement, that signal the beginning of a closer cooperation between the European Union and Iraq in the areas of trade and economics will lead to the strengthening of links that unite us”, remarked, for his part, the Commissioner for Trade, Peter Mendelson.
The outline strategy of the European Union towards Iraq, adopted in June 2004 depends essentially on the creation of a stable and democratic Iraqi State. Amongst the objectives of this strategy are the setting up of a stable, lasting and diversified open market and the economic and political integration of Iraq into its region and the open international system.
“In beginning these contractual negotiations with Iraq, the Commission aims at the following objectives:
Easing Iraq’s commitment to the international community in general and the European Union in particular, to the advantage of internal and regional stabilisation
Stimulating and anchoring the present institutional and socio-economic reforms, both on the political level and in the field, and favouring a mechanism of overall reform at a historical and crucial moment for the country
Contributing to the socio-economic development of Iraq and the improvement of the country’s living conditions
Promoting bilateral trade relations in accordance with the principles of the WTO, based on the development of harmonious economic relations between the parties
Guaranteeing a minimum level of predictability, transparency and legal security to economic operators”.
Moreover, the reconstruction of Iraq is heavily penalised by violence and corruption, is even admitted by Washington and Baghdad. “Reconstruction has not always taken place as well, as we would have hoped, principally because of the challenges due to security in the field”, admitted US President G.W. Bush on 12 December. “Security and reconstruction are indissociable”, said General William McCoy, in charge of the US Army Engineers, going one better. He quoted as an example the supply of electricity in Baghdad. “Whereas we had a good supply at the end of October, at 11 to /12 hours a day, now we have dropped to 4 to 5 hours” he declared. This situation is “a result of insurgent attacks”.
Dan Speckhard, head of the Bureau of Reconstruction Management pointed out on 8 December that that the sabotage was not aimed at the electric power stations but at the high voltage power lines, especially to the North of Baghdad and in its Southern neighbourhoods. But when one knows that 4 of the 21 billion dollars allocated by Washington to the reconstruction of Iraq are devoted to electricity, the bill for the delays due to violence is likely to be steep … Mr. Speckhard states, moreover, that 16 to 22% of the 21 billion dollars are spent on security, quite apart from “the waste of resources”. “It is an important element in the reconstruction programme of this country”, he added, because these funds are used to fight “against the terrorists” who want to harm the development of Iraq.
A US Congress report, published at the end of October had indicated that a number of US financed reconstruction projects would not come to anything because of the rise in security costs. According to this report, that covers the third quarter of 2005, 120 American civilians working for private firms have been killed in Iraq since March 2003. Another obstacle: corruption that affects, as President Bush himself admitted, all levels of Iraqi society. “Corruption exists as much at the national as at local level of the Iraqi government”, it pointed out. An American parliamentary report drives the point home, declaring that corruption “is not only endemic but systematic”.
Dawn Liberi, head in Iraq of the American Agency for International Development (USAID) insists that her team is working closely with the Iraqi Minister of Finance to set up a system of control in the 33 Ministries. General McCoy tries to be optimistic, insisting that “over 90%” of the population supports the work of his team. The Americans, he says, are moving towards handing control, of reconstruction to the Iraqis. To date “44% of our projects have been achieved by Iraqis”, he stressed.
On 26 December, the remains of women and children were found in a mass grave in the Shiite city of Kerbala. “Some skulls of children and women with long hair were found in the ditch”, indicated the spokesman of the provincial police, Abdel Rahman Meshawi. According to him, about twenty bodies were exhumed and transported to the city hospital where AND tests are being made to identify them. “Some inhabitants who lost relatives in the Shiite uprising of 1991 came forward to help in the identification”.
The spokesman pointed out that “the mass grave was found by chance, by local council workers who were laying down drinking water piping”, only 500 metres from the Imam Hussein mausoleum, in the centre of the city, which lies 100 Km South of Baghdad. An inhabitant, Salman Saadun, stated that he had seen bulldozers digging at that spot in 1991, after the entry of the Republican Guard, the former elite corps of Saddam Hussein’s army. “Some bodies were buried there and the place transformed into a little public garden”, he added.
A number of mass graves have been discovered in Iraq since the fall of the Saddam Hussein regime in April 2003, especially in the Shiite South and in Iraqi Kurdistan. The former US-led Provisional Coalition Authority had indicated, in 2004, that 259 mass graves, containing the remains of 300,000 people had been discovered in the country. According to the authorities, the mass graves in the South contained the remains of victims of the repression, by the old regime, of the Shiite majority, which had rebelled against Baghdad after the end of the Gulf War in 1991.
Iran, under Western pressure regarding its nuclear programme, has bought an anti-missile system and developed such a programme itself, confirmed Ali Larijani, Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council. On 2 December, the Russian press announced that Iran had signed a contract with Russia to buy 29 Russian Tor M-1 anti-missile systems to the value of 700 million dollars. Questioned as to whether the purchase of this system meant that Iran feared an attack on its nuclear installations, Mr. Larijani replied: “No. This is not the first time we have bought an anti-missile system. We build them ourselves”. Regarding the Iranian ballistic programme, Mr. Larijani declared that Iran always announced “the range of the missiles it tested”. Iran was, in particular, seeking to “defend its nuclear power station” that Moscow was building at Bushire because “Israel has stated that it was examining the possibility of launching preventive strikes against the site”, explained, for his part a Professor of the Russian Institute for International Relations, Serguei Drujilovski.
Washington accuses Teheran of seeking to endow itself with nuclear arms under cover of its civilian activities. The European Union (France, Great Britain and Germany — EU-3) and Iran had resumed, on 21 December in Vienna, crucial talks on Teheran’s nuclear programme, but some diplomats suggested that there was not much hope of seeing any outcome. The discussions between the political directors of the EU-3 Foreign Ministries and Javad Vaidi, member of the Iranian National Security Council are to define the context in which negotiations could take place, in the future, on mastering the cycle of nuclear combustion that Iran claims but which the West fears to see used to make a bomb.
In Teheran, the Iranian Foreign Minister, Manushehr Mottaki, indicated that, during these discussions, his country would insist on its right to enrich uranium on its own territory. At the same time, Iran wants to discuss a precise timetable for resuming its uranium enrichment activities, pointed out a spokesman for the national Security Council in the Iranian capital. The ET-3 had broken off negotiations in August after Iran had resumed its activity of converting uranium, a preliminary stage to enrichment.
Anxious to put and end to disagreements, President Mahmud Ahmedinjad nominated a veteran of the oil industry, Kazem Vaziri-Hamaneh for the post of Iranian Oil Minister. On 11 December the Iranian Parliament confirmed ultra-conservative President Mahmud Ahmedunjad’s candidate for this strategic post, after having rejected three previous candidates on grounds of their incompetence. Of the 259 Members of Parliament who took part in the vote, the candidate, who till then had held the position of interim Oil Minister, secured 172 votes in favour, 53 against and 34 abstentions. Parliament had rejected the Iranian President’s three previous candidates, accusing him of not having consulted the House about these candidates, considered to be inexperienced and not having sufficient stature for this post.
Born in Yazd (central Iran) Mr. Vaziri-Hamaneh has passed his whole career in this sector, both in the Ministry and in the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC), starting as an engineer and rising to the position of Deputy Oil Minister. Mr. Vaziri-Hamaneh has been interim Minister since 29 August when Mr. Ahmedinjad, elected the previous June, had proposed a new government. The appointment of the position of Oil Minister turned into a tug-of-war between the ultra-conservative President and the House, itself dominated by conservatives, after the rejection of three candidates proposed by Mr. Ahmedinjad.
The personality and competence of the Oil Minister are decisive for defending the development of this sector, which earns Iran 80% of its foreign currency, but also for its role as a major actor within the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). Iran has 12% of the world’s oil reserves and produces about 4.2 million barrels a day (mbd) or 5.2%of the world’s production. It is the second largest producer in OPEC.
The long dispute over the nomination of the Oil Minister has illustrated the divisions within the ranks of the conservatives, divided between pragmatic and hard line supporters. The first were opposed to Mr. Ahmedinjad’s initial choices because they felt he privileged political loyalty over competence, contrary to the second. The ultraconservative president has complained in the past that the ministry was controlled by a “mafia”. Before being officially put forward by the President, Mr. Vaziri-Hamaneh stated that his country should abandon the “buy-back” system, which enables foreign countries to operate the oil and gas fields, being paid with a share of the production. “The buy-back formula is no longer approved and the financing project is also questionable. We must find other alternatives”, he had declared as an aside in an energy conference. This system had been chosen by the Iranians to bye-pass a Constitutional obstacle that prevents foreign companies presence in the country’s energy sector.
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced on 30 December that the negotiations for Turkey’s membership of the European Union would begin in March 2006. Mr. Erdogan indicated that the most important event for Turkey in 2005 was the E.U. decision to undertake negotiations for Turkey’s admission. Turkey’s membership was a very important step for peace and prosperity in the world as well as for the alliance of civilisations, he stressed.
Referring to the economic development of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan indicated that, by removing six zeros from the national currency, the Turkish lira, the New Turkish Lira (YTL) would diminish the rate of inflation. He indicated that the rate of inflation, which was 30% three years ago, had dropped below 8% — the lowest rate in 35 years. Furthermore, Turkey had also increased its per capital revenue by 5,000 dollars and reduced the budget deficit, which had dropped from 40 billion YTL (about 29.6 billion dollars) to 14.6 billion YTL (about 10.8 billion dollars.
For its part, the European Human Rights Court has enjoined Turkey to set up, “within the next three months”, a mechanism of reparation for the Greek Cypriots robbed of their property by the invasion of its troops in the North part of the island in 1974. The Strasbourg judges formulated this injunction in a ruling in favour of a 45-year-old Greek Cypriot woman, Myra Xenides-Aresstis, who had been forced to leave the city of Famagusta, where she owned several properties, including the family home. In a ruling passed by six votes to one (that of the Turkish judge) the Council of Europe Court affirmed that she had been victim of a violation of the right to private and family life and of a violation of her right to property.
The Court declared, unanimously this time, that Turkey “must introduce a mechanism of reparation that ensures the effective protection (of these rights) to the present petitioner but also to all similar petitions at present pending before the Court”. “Such a mechanism should be set up in the three months following this ruling and reparations should be effective in the following three months”, added the judges. About 1,400 similar petitions are pending before the European Human Rights Court. The ruling is not, however, final. Turkey has three months in which to ask that the case be re-examined by the Court’s upper division. This is the fourth time that the Strasbourg judges have ruled in favour of Greek Cypriots robbed of their property by the Turkish military invasion since a ruling made on 18 December 1996 in favour of Titina Loizidou. Turkey only accepted in December 2003 to pay the latter the sum of 1,12million euros. The Turkish government refused to pay, considering that the law on compensation of owners of real estate passed on 30 June 2003 in the Turkish Republic of North Cyprus (TRNC — which is not recognised except by Turkey) was an effective remedy for the victims. The European Court demolished that argument when it decided on the admissibility of Myra Xenides-Arestis’ petition. In a decision dated 2 September 2004, made public in April 2005, the Court noted that this law only provides for material damages and covers neither compensation nor moral damages no any possible restitution of stolen property.
The Court’s new ruling came just as the North Cyprus Parliament ratified, on 26 December, a property law that henceforth authorises Greek Cypriots to ask for restitution of their property. The European Human Rights Court has not yet ruled on the whether this reform is in line with its own criteria.