A major conference tasked with drafting a national action plan to improve human rights in Iraq offers a critical chance for the country's citizens to ensure that their voices are heard, a senior United Nations official said today.
Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Iraq, told the opening of the three-day conference in Baghdad that it was the first time where representatives of all sectors of society – including the Government, the judiciary, academia and civil society – had gathered to discuss human rights.
He noted that millions of Iraqis have experienced human rights abuses in various forms in recent years.
“Loss of life, torture and abuse, loss of access to health care, housing and education, destruction of economic opportunity and the means to earn a livelihood are a few of the harsh realities that the Iraqi people have faced,” Mr. Melkert said.
The Special Representative said the recent demonstrations in Iraq, like those across North Africa and the Middle East this year, were an indication that all Iraqis seek to have their basic rights respected and protected.
“Achieving further progress? is of crucial importance to all. It is therefore necessary to respond to legitimate demands of people, to ensure that their human rights are protected and respected without discrimination.
“It is also vital to enable conditions for genuine freedom of expression within a framework of accountability and due process. This is an important next step after so many Iraqis have exercised their political rights, freely and fairly, to elect their Council of Representatives and to mandate their Government.”
Mr. Melkert welcomed the Government's commitment to start work on a national action plan, and he voiced hope that an independent human rights commission will soon be formed.