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UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) Briefing

Tomorrow (13 November), the Security Council is scheduled to be briefed by the Special Representative and head of UNAMI, Ján Kubiš, his last appearance before the Council in this capacity. His successor, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, has already conducted preliminary meetings in New York, including with the Secretary-General and the Permanent Representative of Iraq to the UN.

Kubiš may stress the need for an inclusive government, representative of the Iraqi population. While the new Prime Minister of Iraq, Adel Abdul-Mahdi (an independent Shi’a politician), was sworn in on 24 October, only 14 out of 22 cabinet members were approved by parliament on that day due to disputes over some of the candidates. Drawing from his experience as head of UNAMI since early 2015, Kubiš is expected to raise points that need to be addressed by the new government—including long-standing frustration by the Iraqi people over a lack of basic public services and infrastructure—and discuss how the UN and the international community can assist in implementing key reforms.

Kubiš might also address relations between the Iraqi government and the Kurdistan regional government, including elections held on 30 September in the region, which were conducted in a mostly peaceful and orderly manner, according to the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI (S/2018/975). A new Kurdish Regional Government has yet to be formed, however. He may also report on UNAMI’s support for reconstruction efforts in areas liberated from the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Accountability for human rights violations and international crimes in former ISIL-controlled territories may also be addressed in the meeting. In a joint report, UNAMI and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights report the discovery of 202 mass graves since 2014 in areas formerly controlled by ISIL, with more such discoveries still expected. In this regard, Kubiš may update Council members on how UNAMI is supporting the UN Investigative Team for Accountability of Da’esh (UNITAD). UNITAD was established by the Secretary-General at the request of the Council in resolution 2379 in September 2017 and is mandated to support Iraqi domestic efforts to hold ISIL accountable for crimes that it committed in the country by collecting, storing and preserving in Iraq evidence of acts that may amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. The first report by Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, the Special Adviser and head of UNITAD, is expected to be shared with Council members later this month.

Kubiš is also expected to give an update on the issues of missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals and missing Kuwaiti property, including the national archives (S/2018/976). In this regard, the Iraqi government recently informed UNAMI that it will soon return some Kuwaiti property.

All Council members are supportive of UNAMI’s role and, considering that only a briefing and no consultations are scheduled, they may seize the opportunity to make public statements and thank Kubiš for his service over the past several years. Members are likely to welcome the electoral process, but also voice expectations regarding the ongoing government formation. Some members may further recall the 5 October announcement of the Norwegian Nobel Committee to award this year’s Nobel Peace Prize to Nadia Murad (together with Denis Mukwege) for her contributions towards ending sexual violence as a weapon of war. Murad is a Yazidi rights activist, who survived sexual violence and captivity by ISIL. Members may also raise recent security concerns in Iraq. In this respect, the latest Secretary-General’s report on UNAMI (S/2018/975) refers to security incidents in Basra, including attacks on the Iranian Consulate and indirect gunfire on the US Consulate, as well as missiles fired by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, targeted at two Iranian opposition groups’ headquarters in northern Iraq.

The penholder on Iraq issues in general, the US, is considering a presidential statement in support of the new Iraqi government, as soon as it is fully formed.

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