Oct 10, 2014

UNPO Raises Assyrian Human Rights Concerns at UPR Pre-Session in Geneva

On Thursday, 9 October 2014, UNPO attended the Pre-session of the Universal Periodic Review on Iraq, representing our member, the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA).  The UPR Pre-session provides an opportunity for civil society actors and NGOs to engage with the UPR process and present information that they have compiled about the implementation of recommendations made during the previous UPR session to the permanent delegations of member states.  

On this occasion, the UPR Pre-session on Iraq consisted of a panel of NGOs and international organizations concerned with the human rights situation in Iraq. The panel consisted of UNPO, Minority Rights Group, the Sawa Organization for Human Rights, Al Karama and Al Mesalla.  The pre-session was attended by 32 state representatives from permanent missions in Geneva.

UNPO addressed the session on the human rights situation of the indigenous Assyrian Christians in Iraq.  The intervention focused on three main issues. The first was the systematic persecution of Iraq’s ancient Assyrian Christian community at the hands of members of the so-called “Islamic State.” Secondly, UNPO spoke of how the Iraqi Government’s legacy of discrimination against Assyrian Christians has further marginalized the community. Thirdly, UNPO offered actionable and evidence-informed recommendations for consideration in Iraq’s second UPR cycle. 

In the question and answers section of the pre-session, the Canadian permanent delegation asked the UNPO representative to elaborate on the Iraqi Government’s failure to adequately represent the Assyrian population in the local security forces legal mechanisms obliging the Iraqi Government to do so.  The Canadian permanent delegation was directed to the relevant provisions in the Iraqi Constitution (Constitution of Iraq, Article 9(1)(A)) and was informed about the concrete examples of Hamdaniya and Tel Keiff, where Assyrian Christians represent a disproportionate percentage of the total number of police officers.

The recommendations presented by UNPO on behalf of AUA are as follows.  They draw upon those incorporated in the CERD’s latest Concluding Observations on Iraq and rely on issues raised both in this intervention as well as AUA’s stakeholder submission:

First, ensure that Assyrian Christians and other minorities are adequately represented in all levels of the government’s security forces, both in positions of command and authority as well as in areas in which they represent a significant portion of the population. Second, implement administrative processes to allow both formerly as well as currently displaced persons the ability to quickly and efficiently redeem all property deprived by conflict. Third, amend existing laws or implement new legislation allowing all Iraqis the right to change their religious designation on identity cards and other government documents to the religion of their choice. Fourth, amend existing laws or implement new legislation to end discrimination against religious minorities in their commitment to their personal status. Fifth, promptly end all policies and practices aimed at changing the demographic composition of the Nineveh Plain. And lastly, amend election laws to guarantee minorities are proportionally represented in parliamentary and provincial councils throughout Iraq.

The full intervention can be downloaded here