Kurdish government accepts Baghdad’s conditions to end dispute

A photo taken on October 29, 2017 shows the building of Iraq's autonomous Kurdistan region's parliament in Arbil, Kurdistan's capital in northern Iraq. (AFP)
Updated 27 December 2017
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Kurdish government accepts Baghdad’s conditions to end dispute

BAGHDAD: The Iraqi Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) has agreed on the conditions stipulated by Baghdad’s federal government to solve outstanding problems between the two governments.
Talks will be resumed to end the punitive measures in the Kurdish region, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Abadi said on Tuesday.
The KRG held a controversial referendum on independence in late September inside the region and disputed areas seized by the Kurdish forces during the past years.
Baghdad responded by imposing a series of punitive measures on the region including banning international flights into and from the region’s airports, shutting down the border crossings between the region, Turkey and Iran, and launching a huge military campaign to drive the Kurdish forces back to the 2005 constitutionally approved border.
Considering the September referendum illegal, Baghdad took steps to reinforce federal writ in and around the region, which has been autonomous since 2003. Abadi said there is a dispute between Baghdad and the KRG over the border of the region and the running of the border of the country.
“The constitution was clear relating to the border of the region and it was recognized (by the constitution) as the border of the region on March 9, 2001, but the regional (Kurdish) forces were out of these borders,” Abadi said on Tuesday in his weekly press conference.
“Also, the border (of the country) should be exclusively under the control of the federal government… so we took several measures to control the border and the border crossings.
“Now the regional government and the (Kurdish) officials said that they agree on these two points (conditions) and let’s talk,” Abadi said.
“I consider this an essential change… but we want to reiterate two things — which are the referendum was illegal and (there will be) no return to it (the results) again. The second thing is the recognition of the 2003 borders of the region and the borders (of the country) should be under the control of the central government.”


Torture in Palestinian jails ‘systematic’

Updated 3 min 3 sec ago
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Torture in Palestinian jails ‘systematic’

  • Human Rights Watch said the “torture” done by both parties against detainees is “a crime against humanity”
  • Methods employed included beatings, electric shocks and stress positions

RAMALLAH, Palestinian Territories: The Palestinian security forces “systematically” abuse and torture prisoners in what could amount to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday.
The rival authorities of the Palestinian Authority and Hamas both used threats, arbitrary arrests and violent abuse against detainees, said the New York-based group.
The report is likely to put pressure on governments that fund the PA’s forces, including the United States, which has maintained security funding despite cutting aid to the Palestinians.
Omar Shakir, HRW’s Israel-Palestine director, said the actions by both sides amounted to potential war crimes that could be prosecuted in the International Criminal Court.
“Both the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and Hamas authorities in Gaza are systematically, arbitrarily detaining critics and torturing those in custody,” he told AFP.
“Systematic torture as part of a government policy is a crime against humanity.”
He said the allegations undermined Palestinian criticism of Israeli rights abuses.
“You have Palestinian leaders going around the world speaking about Palestinian rights at the same time as they are directing a machinery of oppression to crush dissent,” he told AFP.
The PA rejected the allegations, accusing Human Rights Watch of allying with the US government. Hamas did not respond.
The Palestinian territories have been split between rival administrations since Hamas seized the Gaza Strip in a near civil war in 2007.
In its report, HRW said both sides particularly focused on those allegedly affiliated with the rival faction.
Methods employed by the Palestinian Authority included beatings, electric shocks and stress positions.
On one occasion PA security forces tied a cord around a detainee’s penis for eight hours, causing it to swell and turn blue, HRW said.
Sami Al-Sai, a journalist, was arrested in 2017 on suspicion of relations with Hamas.
The 39-year-old was beaten, had threats made about his family and hanged from a ceiling by handcuffs.
He eventually pleaded guilty to various charges including “creating sectarian strife” and was jailed for three months.
“Every day I expect that they will rearrest me, and torture me again, but they can’t do anything more than they did.”
In Gaza, Hamas also beat and systematically abused prisoners.
A Western diplomat said the report was alarming, without suggesting what action could be taken in response.
The United States under Donald Trump has cut around $500 million in aid to Palestinians this year, but continued to provide roughly $50 million a year for security coordination with Israel.
“It is noteworthy that at a time when the United States has cut funding for UNRWA, which provides vital health and education services to Palestinians and to hospitals in east Jerusalem, the only source of funding remaining is to security coordination (and) to security forces that are involved in really serious abuses,” Shakir said.
He called on Western states to temporarily suspend funding to the PA security forces.
Haitham Arar, head of human rights at the PA’s interior ministry, said the government “rejected everything in the Human Rights Watch report.”
“The report confuses politics and human rights and is consistent with the (US) Deal of the Century with the aim of weakening the PA,” Arar said, referring to Trump’s long-delayed peace plan that Palestinians fear will be biased toward Israel.
HRW said the report was the result of two years of research and nearly 150 interviews.