UN Urges Electoral Reforms, Release of Protesters in Iraq

The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq warned Sunday of the need for timely, tangible results in the government's response to protests that began in early October, and offered a roadmap to address some of the demonstrators' demands.

The U.N. office issued a statement saying that within a week the government should release all protesters who have been detained since October 1 and accelerate efforts to identify and prosecute those responsible for using excessive force against protesters.

It said there should be public calls for those in the region and elsewhere in the world with influence in Iraq to respect the country's sovereignty and not interfere with its internal affairs.

UNAMI also called for the finalization of a framework for electoral reform and for anti-corruption action by the country's political leadership within the next two weeks.  It further said that within three months, a constitutional review committee should continue its work on potential amendments.

The United States supported the U.N.'s proposals.

A White House statement late Sunday cited serious concerns about attacks against protesters and internet blackouts.

"Despite being targeted with lethal violence and denied access to the Internet, the Iraqi people have made their voices heard, calling for elections and election reforms," said the White House press secretary.

Iraq's Human Rights Commission says at least 319 people have been killed since the protests began.

Demonstrators have complained about corruption, lack of basic services and job opportunities, as well electricity outages.  Iraqi leaders have proposed some reforms but those have largely been rejected by the protesters who say they want Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and others to resign.

Abdul-Mahdi met Sunday with President Barham Salih and Parliament Speaker Mohammed Halbousi.

A statement from the prime minister's office said the officials reaffirmed the need to avoid violence against peaceful demonstrations and to have strict accountability for excessive violence by members of the security forces.  It also said they discussed the need for electoral reforms that reduce the chances of party monopolies and give greater opportunities for young people to join parliament and its decision-making.

by via Voice of America - English