Iraq Cabinet remains incomplete as Parliament defers key appointments

Abdul Mahdi has sought to circumvent the deadlock by holding negotiations on the contentious candidates individually. (AP)
Updated 24 December 2018
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Iraq Cabinet remains incomplete as Parliament defers key appointments

  • The two biggest political blocs in Parliament on Tuesday showed no signs of having reached a consensus on the nominees for several key ministries
  • The political deadlock surfaced in late October after 16 out of the 22 candidates proposed by Abdul Mahdi won approval. Rest were rejected

BAGHDAD: Iraq's prime minister has failed once again to make new Cabinet appointments after his nominees could not muster the requisite parliamentary support, dashing hopes for a breakthrough in filling the vacant positions.

Iraqi lawmakers and negotiators told Arab News that the two biggest political blocs in Parliament on Tuesday showed no signs of having reached a consensus on the nominees for several key ministries, including the interior and defense, which act as power bases in a fractured political landscape.
Abdul Mahdi's appointment as prime minister in September had raised public expectations after a prolonged spell of government deadlock following the general elections of May. However, the Shiite political blocs whose backing paved the way for the 76-year-old former oil minister's return to government have differed on the candidates for the other posts.
On assuming office, Abdul Mahdi was given 30 days to assemble a Cabinet to be approved by Parliament. The political jockeying had been expected to intensify as regional patrons were seen as reluctant to allow key ministries to go to candidates backed by their rivals.
The political deadlock surfaced in late October after 16 out of the 22 candidates proposed by Abdul Mahdi won approval. The rest were rejected by the Reform Alliance, led by the Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, which remains at loggerheads with the Iran-backed Al-Binna'a Alliance led by Hadi Al-Amiri, the commander of Badr Organization, Iraq's most powerful Shiite armed faction.
Each candidate needs at least 166 votes out of 329 in Parliament to be approved. Both Reform and Al-Binna'a have been unable on their own to secure the requisite support for their candidates, compelling each to rely on the other's backing.
Abdul Mahdi has sought to circumvent the deadlock by holding negotiations on the contentious candidates individually. Three of the candidates won the Parliament's approval last week. Two more will join them after the previous nominees were dropped in the latest development. In Monday's session, Abdul Mahdi's picks for the Education and Immigration Ministries were approved.
However, Maj. Gen. Faisal Fanar Al-Jarb, a candidate for the Ministry of Defense, was excluded by voting, while voting on the candidates for the posts of interior and justice ministers was postponed.
Disagreement between Reform, which says it wants to limit outside influence in Iraqi politics, and Al-Binna'a over the nominees for the interior and defense portfolios is at the heart of the current stalemate. Reform wanted retired Al-Jarba, a former commander of Saddam Hussein's special squadron, to head the Defense Ministry. Al-Binna'a objected on the grounds that Al-Jarba's role in the deposed Saddam regime disqualified him for a Cabinet post under the program of de-baathification.
For its part, Al-Binna wanted Falih Al-Fayadh, who has just become the National Security Adviser, to take charge of the powerful Interior Ministry. Al-Fayadh, who was sacked in August from his dual posts as head of the Iran-linked Popular Mobilization Units and the national security advisor by caretaker Prime Minister Haidar Abadi, is viewed by Reform as "the man of Iran."
Arab News has learned that a last-minute deal reached in Monday's session by the negotiators of the two blocs resulted in Al-Jarba's exclusion and Al-Fayadh's replacement by a new candidate for the interior portfolio.
"Al-Jarba did not get the required votes for his approval, so he is formally excluded as a ministerial candidate," an Al-Binna'a negotiator told Arab News.

He added that "we agreed Al-Fayadh will be replaced soon but the vote (for the new nominee for interior minister) will take place in the new year."
The Interior Ministry had been under the control of ministers close to Iran since 2010.


ICC prosecutor calls on Sudan authorities to hand over Omar Al-Bashir

Updated 28 min 22 sec ago
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ICC prosecutor calls on Sudan authorities to hand over Omar Al-Bashir

  • ICC chief prosecutor tells the UN Security Council she is ready to work with authorities to ensure Darfur suspects face justice
  • Council members in calling for an end to violence against civilians

UNITED NATIONS: The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court urged Sudan’s transitional authorities on Wednesday to hand over or prosecute ousted President Omar Al-Bashir and four others for alleged war crimes in Darfur.
Fatou Bensouda told the UN Security Council she is ready to work with authorities “to ensure that the Darfur suspects face independent and impartial justice” either at the ICC in The Hague, Netherlands, or in Sudan if its court meets international standards.
Bensouda said she didn’t underestimate “the complexity and fluidity of the events unfolding in Sudan,” but declared it was now time to act and ensure that the ICC suspects face justice.
Negotiations on Sudan’s transition following Al-Bashir’s ouster in April collapsed after a violent crackdown on a protest camp in the capital Khartoum by security forces. Protesters demanding civilian rule say at least 128 people have been killed across the country since security forces moved in to clear the sit-in area outside the military’s headquarters on June 3. Authorities put the death toll at 61, including three from security forces.
Bensouda joined many council members in calling for an end to violence against civilians, including alleged sexual and gender-based crimes, which has spread beyond Khartoum to other regions, including Darfur.
“As for Sudan itself, it is now at a crossroads with the opportunity to depart from its previous policy of complete non-cooperation with my office and embark on a new chapter by signaling a new commitment to accountability for the victims in the Darfur situation,” she said.
Sudan is not a party to the ICC and Al-Bashir’s government refused to recognize its jurisdiction. Sudanese minister Elsadig Ali Ahmed told the council Wednesday that “despite the change of the political situation in Sudan ... our position remains the same, unchanged.”
He told the council that Sudan has begun “the pursuit of a civilian democratic rule where there is no room for impunity,” and the new political reality “will undoubtedly lead to the establishment of a regime where freedom and democracy and the rule of law prevail.”
For Sudan, he emphasized “that combating impunity is a noble purpose of justice ... and it primarily falls within the responsibilities of the national judiciary.” He called the ICC principle mentioned by Bensouda of letting national governments prosecute war crimes if their courts meet the right standards “positive.”
Al-Bashir appeared in public for the first time Sunday when he was led to a prosecutor’s office in a corruption investigation.
Ahmed said it has been announced that Al-Bashir’s trial will begin next week, and he said the public prosecutor is also investigating two other detainees sought by the ICC, Abdel Raheem Hussein and Ahmad Harun.
A judicial official with the prosecutor’s office said Al-Bashir was questioned over accusations that include money laundering and the possession of large amounts of foreign currency. He said the probe partly related to millions of dollars’ worth of cash in US dollars, euros and Sudanese pounds that were found in Al-Bashir’s home a week after his ouster.
Bensouda noted that the transitional military council now ruling Sudan made a commitment in its inaugural address on April 11 to all local, regional and international treaties, charters and conventions.
She said this pledge must including a commitment to the UN Charter, which requires Sudan to comply with Security Council resolutions — including the 2005 resolution that referred the situation in Darfur to the ICC.
The vast western Darfur region of Sudan was gripped by bloodshed in 2003 when rebels took up arms against the government in Khartoum, accusing it of discrimination and neglect. The government was accused of retaliating by arming local nomadic Arab tribes known as the janjaweed and unleashing them on civilian populations — a charge it denies.
Bensouda said Sudan has a legal obligation to surrender the suspects in custody or prosecute them on charges in ICC warrants — including genocide allegations against Al-Bashir — and to surrender two others still at large, senior janjaweed commander Ali Kushayb and Abdallah Banda, commander of the Justice and Equality rebel group. She stressed that this must include safe and unfettered access for ICC staff to Sudan and Darfur.
Elize Keppler, associate director for Human Rights Watch’s international justice program, said the situation in Sudan has changed and the new authority “has the opportunity to meet Sudan’s international legal obligations to surrender Omar Al-Bashir and the other suspects to face justice at the ICC as the Darfur victims so deserve more than 10 years later.”