Parliament speaker Osama al-Nujaifi slammed the human rights situation in Iraq on Monday, arguing that “massive” violations were destroying its democracy just as it grapples with a festering political row.
Osama al-Nujaifi said that targeting the innocent, the use of violence against individuals and their property, and random arrests were all signs of poor human rights in Iraq, and called for the government to stop blocking provincial bids for increased autonomy from Baghdad.
The remarks from Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab, come amid a two-week standoff between the Shiite-led government and the speaker's Sunni-backed Iraqiya party, shortly after U.S. troops completed their withdrawal from the country.
“We find that human rights in Iraq have suffered massive violations,” Nujaifi said in a televised address.
“Human rights have not been achieved amid the deteriorating of the political process in Iraq.”
He continued: “It is clear that the development of the nation is based on how much human rights are respected. Losing these rights is destroying democracy.”
Nujaifi pointed in particular to “violence against people and property, random detention, mistreatment and poor judicial processes targeting innocent people from different sects.”
The speaker called on Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s government to stop stalling bids by multiple Sunni-majority provinces in Iraq’s north and west to obtain increased autonomy, as is allowed by the country’s constitution.
“No Iraqi has the right to violate clear constitutional articles,” Nujaifi said. “(The government must) respond to public opinion in every province that wants to establish a region, based on the willingness of their residents.”
Salaheddin, Anbar and Diyala provinces have all made moves to obtain autonomy from the central government of the type enjoyed by Iraq’s northern Kurdish region.
Nujaifi also cautioned against a politicised security force, amid accusations that units have surrounded the homes of senior Sunni politicians inside Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.
“The priority of the army should not change from training and raising its combat level to seeking political power and supporting parties,” Nujaifi said.
His remarks came amid a political deadlock, with authorities having charged Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with running a death squad and Maliki calling for Sunni Deputy Prime Minister Saleh al-Mutlak to be fired.
Mutlak and Hashemi’s Iraqiya party has boycotted parliament and cabinet meetings. Hashemi, who is holed up in the autonomous Kurdish region, rejects the accusations, while Mutlak has decried the national unity government as a dictatorship.
Lawmakers are due to consider Maliki’s request for Mutlak to be fired on Tuesday.
Several Iraqi leaders have called for urgent talks of politicians from all major blocs to resolve the crisis, but no such meetings have yet been held.
“The political process, in spite of all the weaknesses it suffers, is still the only solution,” Nujaifi said in his speech. “The national conference that (Iraqi President) Jalal Talabani has called for is the right way to resolve the crisis, and we hope it will succeed.”