Thursday, February 03, 2011

Parliament and the battle for democracy

Yesterday Alsumaria TV broke news (again we ask, where are the US outlets)? Despite Nouri and a so-called legal expert insisting that the power-grab (Nouri got the Supreme Court to put independent bodies under his control) was Constitutional, "Alsumaria News got a copy of a document released by Iraq's Supreme Court in 2006 in clarification to the inquiries of the former Parliament's Integrity Commission over the exact meaning of independence mentioned in Constitution Article 102 and the difference in content between Articles 102 and 103. The court's clarification came contradictory with its last ruling on January 18 stipulating to have independent institutions supervised by the Cabinet and not the Parliament." We've pointed out this week that the Electoral Commission has specifically asked the United Nations to step in and the embarrassing nonsense the UN's top person in Iraq, Ad Melkert, offered (boiled down: Ignore this issue, let's focus on the economy!). Yaser Ali (AK News) reports:

Al-Iraqiya deputy Hani Ashour told AKnews that Melkert's comments contravene the mission of the UN in Iraq which is to support the country in its democratic foundations and help the Iraqi people without interfering in constitutional and legal details.
[. . .]
"The natural role of the Council of Representatives is to consider the implications of such decisions through dialogue between parliament and the government to agree on the definition of independence," he told reporters in Baghdad.
Ashour said that the UN must promote the convergence of views between the political parties, and not to offer its support to any one faction.
What is at stake here, said the al-Iraqiya deputy, is the "independence of the Iraqi institutions according to the constitution".

Yesterday, Ousam al Nujaifi, Speaker of Parliament, called out the ruling. Al Mada reports that he is proposing a bill which would clarify roles and re-order the courts.

In other Parliament news, Ayas Hossam Acommok (Al Mada) reports that the members of Parliament are being prevented from visiting Iraqi prisons unannounced and an unnamed official in Nineveh states this is due to the fact that a number of prisoners are missing and that these people are being held in secret prisons. Acommok notes the news comes after Human Rights Watch revealed Nouri and his forces are running secret prisons. Meanwhile Ali Abdel Gentlemen (Al Mada) reports that the Cabinet is checking their offices for listening devices, are constructing new office walls out of fear of listening devices and that trust is in short supply with the behavior indicated a state of high anxiety among politicians and an unnamed insider (who plyas "a leading role in a political bloc) declares that "Maliki himself does not trust anyone."

Today, Fang Yang (Xinhua) reports, a Baghdad roadside bombing claimed 2 lives and left three people injured and that police in Salahudin Province are claiming credit for 'foiling' a suicide attack by "forcing a suicide bomber to blew up his explosive vest, wounding two people" -- no, that does not sound like foiling to me either. Alsumaria TV drops back to Tuesday today to note, "Two members of Iraqi Intelligence Forces were killed in two separate incidents in Baghdad on Tuesday night. Unknown gunmen opened fire on Tuesday night on the car of Razzaq Qasem Ali, a division chief at Iraqi Intelligence Department, as he was passing near Baghdad gate in Taji District, a police source told Alsumaria News. Qassem Ali was killed on the spot. Another intelligence officer was killed in the same way and in the same region few hours following the first incident."

Meanwhile Tupperware's Elinor Steele continues to highlight the issues effecting Iraqi women at Huffington Post:

Exacerbating these problems are the societal problems plaguing the country. Iraq has always been a pioneer in the Middle East for integrating women into society and promoting women's rights; however, over the past 30 years many laws that empowered women have been retracted and some men in society have become more conservative and less open-minded to women-owned businesses. This kind of thinking could set Iraq's economy back by decades.

During my visit, I had a chance to meet a group of Iraqi female politicians. The first comment they made was about unequal representation within the Iraqi government. While the Iraqi parliament is complying with its constitutional mandate that 25% of the seats must be held by women, there are no women in senior-level government positions such as vice president or serving as ministers at high-ranking ministries.

There also are educational obstacles that prevent people from pursuing their dreams. In Iraq, you don't decide what to study. When you take your final high school exam, your scores are sent to a central government entity where they direct you to one of the colleges that best matches your score. While students are able to indicate their area of interests, ultimately, it is the government that decides each student's educational path.

And we'll close with this from "Interview with Andy Worthington: The Outrage of the Bush-Obama Military Commissions" (Revolution via World Can't Wait):

Revolution: Stepping back a little, looking at the Military Commissions under Bush, wasn't this a significant departure from the legal "norms" in the U.S.? In the history of the U.S., there have been many instances of politically motivated cases and injustices, especially involving people who those in power see as threats, or oppressed people on a daily basis. But still, the Military Commissions represented a major leap in repressive measures—in throwing out basic rights, allowing torture, and so on.

Andy Worthington: Well when they were brought back by Congress, there was an attempt by Congress to say that the use of torture wouldn't be allowed. The fundamental problem with the Military Commissions is that terrorism is a crime, but the Bush administration, and now the Obama administration, were trying to prosecute people in military settings for crimes, which they were trying to turn into war crimes. And that's the fundamental misconception about the whole thing, why it doesn't fit together.

Revolution: Barack Obama campaigned with pledges to shut Guantánamo down and stop the Military Commissions, among other promises. So what has happened under Obama?

Andy Worthington: He suspended the Military Commissions on his first day in office in order to review them, and on his second day in office he also issued executive orders that promised to close Guantánamo within a year, upheld the absolute ban on torture, and promised humane interrogations of detainees in the future. However, in May 2009, he delivered a major national security speech at the National Archives, where he put Military Commissions back on the table. He also put the indefinite detention without charge or trial of some prisoners back on the table as well. And all the dreams and hopes that he was going to either charge or release prisoners, and if charged, try them in federal courts began to unravel at that point. So that's a simple answer, that on May 2009 he was told, or persuaded to change his mind.

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