Saturday, October 22, 2011

Gaddafi: Born and Killed in Sirte, Libya

By: Ali Rawaf

In this video, a bunch of the rebels are dragging Gaddafi down the street, htting him, and pulling his hair. Through out the video, one can hear a couple of them yelling "Keep him alive." One of the rebels repeats to Gaddafi, "This is Misrata you dog," referring to the fact that people of city that was bombed the most by Gaddafi's forces have captured him. The camera turns and voices are heard yelling "No, no, no." Gun shots are heard then the crowd starts yelling "God is great, God is great."

It is ironic that the last words of a man who ordered the shooting of thousands of people were “Don’t shoot.” It is also ironic to see the people who revolted against him for his violent control of Lybia end up treating him so violently.

When Saddam Hussein was hung amidst a cheering crowd, telling him to go to “go to hell”, I thought that was barbaric for a country that was trying to put behind decades of violence. But the Libyan rebels took a lot further with their dictator. They shot him in the legs and the head. They dragged him down the street, while hitting him and yelling at him, “shut up you dog.” Gaddafi tried to dodge the punches and wipe his bleeding face.

Later footage shows him lying on a bed of a truck, covered in blood, surrounded by a cheering crowd. “God is great,” they chanted, probably the same word Gaddafi himself chanted when he lead a military coup on his predecessor 42 years ago.

As Gaddafi fell, the chants got louder and the crowds started shooting in the air, celebrating his death.

His son was captured without any injuries. Shortly after, it was reported that he was killed for trying to fight his captors. He wasn’t armed. He was shot four times in the back.

I am not mourning Gaddafi’s death and I am not speaking against the revolutionaries of Libya but what I am trying to say is that it doesn’t make sense to change an era of violence with such an act. On paper, Gaddafi and his son were killed without a trial. This is not a good precedent for a country that wants to build a peaceful democracy.

What Libyans and other revolting countries need to realize is that they are setting precedents. The more peaceful and civilized they are, the more they will advance their cause. It would have made a big difference if the dictator was put through trial. Now, from the beginning, the new Libyan government will have to deal with accusations of violating human rights. Putting him to trial could have been a good initiative to promote rule of law. But they didn't. Nato and the Libya’s National Transitional Council signaled that Gaddafi’s death would end the military operations. The future of Libya is just as uncertain as the way Gaddafi died (or was killed). What I’m certain about is that this is not a good way to start a peaceful democracy.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Iraqi's Dissatisfaction with Economy Hits Record High

By: Ali Rawaf

A survey conducted by Gallup Polls shows Iraqis have grown more dissatisfied with the economic conditions of the country.  Between January 2010 and early 2011, the number of Iraqis who think the economy is getting worse has significantly risen to 37 percent, up from 20 percent last year.

Survey results show more than half of Iraqis are dissatisfied with their standard of living. A third of the population struggles to pay for shelter. A UN report also shows that more than half of Iraqis live in slum conditions.

 Iraqis don't see an end in sight. Even though the country's revenue have increased, especially after the rise in oil prices and the increase in the Iraq's oil output, the government has failed to implement policies to incentivise the economy. The private sector remains weak and public sector jobs are mostly given to individuals with connections or party affiliations. 65 percent believe it is a bad time to get a job in cities where they live. 

The Iraqi political elite has failed to enact legislation to provide any form of stability to the economy. The country lacks law to protect the rights of private business and lacks any incentives for foreign entities to come in for investments. Building the infrastructure can provide people with many jobs. Reviving agriculture can provide jobs. Foreign companies can be invited to invest in the country and hire Iraqi people. These are few possible solutions. The political body can do much more to help the economy, if they put their differences aside and work on common interests of the Iraqi people.

Sources: Gallup

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Can Iraq Let Go of the Death Penalty?

By: Ali Rawaf

In the West, the debate over the death penalty has been heated and ongoing for a long time. Recently, the execution of Troy Davis, a former inmate in the State of Georgia in the US, has brought this subject back to the attention of the world. Different countries, religious groups, and human rights groups have protested the death sentence that was given to Troy Davis, who was convicted of killing a police officer 20 years ago but the evidence in the case wasn’t conclusive. In the Middle East, the death penalty hasn’t been as much debated as it is in the west. After all, most governments in the Middle East don’t have to follow the legal procedure to see the execution of their citizens. 

In Iraq, courts have to deal with more than just ordinary killers and criminals. They have to deal with terrorists and mass killers so the death penalty is given more often than in other countries. In one court hearing in 2005, a woman described why she wanted the capital punishment for the killers of her son, “They broke his arms. They broke his legs. They took out his eyeballs […] I want the death penalty.” This is one of hundreds of similar cases and so, hundreds of death sentences have been given since 2003.

Under the counter-terrorism laws, the government had established the “secret informer,” a guarantee from the government that if one reports a terrorist activity, the person’s identity shall remain secret. Because of the “secret informer,” many have been arrested without real offenses and many have wrongly been executed.
According to Amnesty International, Iraqi authorities justify the use of the death penalty as form of deterrence, even though officials like the former Iraqi Human Rights Minister admit that it is useless. In 2010, the organization listed in its report that 1100 prisoners are under the sentence of death and most of them have ran out of ways to appeal their sentences.

Human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have called on Iraqi authorities to stop the death penalty in the country, citing high numbers of death sentences, many of which are given without fair trials or without any evidence. The Parliament has finally paid some attention to this issue. The Human Rights Committee in Parliament announced today that they will debate a legislation to stop the death penalty in the country. Parliament members said that mounting pressure from human rights groups have pushed them to consider such a measure. Other members say, given the security situation, this type of legislation will not do the country any good at this point in time.

The question to Mailki’s government is how much do they really care about promoting reconciliation in the country? If they do care one tiny bit, ending the death sentence would be a good place to start. 

Iraq: Human Rights Briefing 2010 - Amnesty International

Radio Sawa: Discussions About New Legislation to Stop Death Penalty

Washington Post: Capitol Punishment Returns to Iraq

Monday, October 3, 2011

Iraqi Parliament is More Active

By: Ali Rawaf

Today, Nuri Al-Maliki is seen more of an authoritarian ruler than a prime minister in a newly formed democracy. He fires opponents, ignores political promises and agreements, and defies the legislative and the legal system of the country. And Parliament doesn’t exercise its power to check on the Prime Minister.

In recent move that further demonized the second term PM, Maliki pressured the Chairman of Iraq’s Integrity Commission*, Judge Raheem Al-Ugaili to resign**. The PM’s party says the Chairman wasn’t qualified for the position anyways because he was a former Baathist and therefore shouldn’t hold such an important position. Maliki asked the Chairman to investigate two corruption cases in which two of Maliki’s opponents are involved. When, the Chairman refused to do so for lack of evidence, Maliki pressured him to resign.

In Maliki’s first term, Parliament would have overlooked the resignation of the Chairman and wouldn’t have sought for ways to check the power of the PM, who obviously has overstepped his boundaries.  But not this time.  A day late, a member of the Parliament’s Integrity Committee(Different from the Integrity Commission), Sabbah Al-Saedi  issued a press release in which characterized the move as reminiscent of Saddam Hussein’s authoritarian regime and cautioned his fellow members that if this move goes unopposed, they are letting a new Saddam Hussein flourish in the country’s new democracy.

Maliki sought an arrest warrant against Al-Saedi, in which he claimed that his comments threaten the countries security. The warrant was issues, based on a law from the Saddam Hussein era under which opponents were criminalized.

In order for the arrest to go through, Parliament has to withdraw immunity from the member. A majority of the parliament stood by the member and didn’t withdraw his immunity. Further, Parliament voted for a new law for the Integrity Commission, where the Chairman is appointed and is fired by Parliament and not the PM. However, a day before the law was passed, Maliki used a law from the Coalition Administration under Paul Bremer to appoint a temporary Chairman for the Integrity Commission.  

The Iraqi parliament got its act together to vote for the law. Now, will they get their act together to appoint a new Chairman for the Integrity Commission?

*Under the Iraqi Constitution, The Integrity Commission is one of the principal independent oversight bodies like the Electoral Commission and the Central bank. The Commission investigates corruption cases in government institutions. According to the Commission's website, it had succeeded in indicting more than 2000 government employees on the basis of fraud (Bribery)  and/or providing false college degrees in their job applications.

 **Judge Rahem Al-Ugaili was born in 1966, bachelor degree in Law from university of Baghdad in 1991. After his graduation at the Judicial Institution, he was appointed as a judge in 1997. Judge Izzat Twafiq is the fourth personality to hold the presidency of Commission of Integrity which was established by CPA where Mr. Rady Al-Rady was the first commissioner.

Website of the Integrity Commission: