UNAMI chief urges push for reform, warns against violence against protesters

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI), addresses the Security Council, Feb. 13, 2019. (Photo: UNSC)

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SULAIMANI — Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert on Monday (January 20) urged Iraqi leaders to renew their push for push for reform to meet the needs of the Iraqi people.

She asked also expressed concern about ongoing human rights violations against activists and demonstrators.

“In recent months, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis from all walks of life have taken to the streets to voice their hopes for better times, free from corruption, partisan interests and foreign interference,” the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) chief said in a statement.

“The killing and injury of peaceful protesters, combined with long years of undelivered promises, have resulted in a major crisis of confidence,” she added.

“Any steps taken so far to address the people’s concerns will remain hollow, if they are not completed.”

Protests are expected to escalate in Baghdad and cities across Iraq’s southern provinces on Monday, with demonstrators saying they will cut roads in an effort to pressure the government to enact reforms to the country’s governance system.

More than 500 people have been killed since anti-government unrest broke out on October 1, with at least 17,000 wounded. Protesters have called for root-and-branch changes to Iraq’ governance system, which they see as fundamentally corrupt.

The security forces have responded by cracking down on the demonstrations, using live bullets and military-grade tear gas cannisters to try to break up the crowds. Activists and journalists have also been singled out for abductions and targeted killings, often by third-party armed groups and militias.

In her statement, Hennis-Plasschaert warned that violence against peaceful protesters “must be avoided at all costs.”

“Nothing is more damaging than a climate of fear. Accountability and justice for victims is critical to building trust, legitimacy and resilience,” she added.

(NRT Digital Media)