1. The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2233 (2015), in which I was requested to report every three months on progress made toward fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report covers key developments related to Iraq and provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Iraq since the issuance of my report dated 27 April 2016 (S/2016/396).
II. Summary of key political developments pertaining to Iraq
A. Political situation
2. Negotiations to overcome the political deadlock and split in the Council of Representatives persisted during the reporting period. At the same time, the Iraqi people continued their calls for tangible progress on Government reforms and the implementation of anti-corruption measures. Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr, staged large protests in coordination with pro-reform and anti-corruption civil society protesters, mainly on Fridays. The dissenting members of Parliament coalesced into a new entity, named the Reform Front, which saw increased steps towards the consolidation of the group as a new political force. Reform Front members filed an appeal with the Federal Supreme Court, challenging the legality of the parliamentary session on 26 April.
3. On 20 May, thousands of protesters, including many supporters of al-Sadr, moved from Baghdad’s Tahrir Square towards the Green Zone and forced their way into the Council of Ministers’ secretariat building and the Office of the Prime Minister. Iraqi security forces used crowd control measures, including rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannons inside and outside the Green Zone. Live ammunition was reportedly fired into the air in an effort to disperse the crowds. UNAMI received reports of the death of four protesters and of many other casualties, including some members of the security forces.
4. The incident on 20 May was the second major breach of the Green Zone’s security since 30 April, after heightened security measures had been put in place. Muqtada al-Sadr strongly criticized the Government for using force against protesters. The same day, the Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, stated in a televised address that the breach of the Green Zone, like recent suicide attacks in the Baghdad area, was the work of “Baathist infiltrators” and “criminals” belonging to Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), to undermine the Iraqi security forces. The statement was strongly rejected by the protesters and by al-Sadr.
5. On 21 May, in Baghdad, protesters supporting Muqtada al-Sadr and a protest group called the Civil Trend side formed a joint higher coordination committee to organize their activities. Al-Sadr, who had announced that he would be outside the country as of 30 April for religious seclusion, issued statements calling for the continuation of peaceful protests and for government reforms.
6. During the second week of June, several attacks occurred on the offices of major established Shi’a political parties in southern governorates and Baghdad, which were allegedly carried out by splinter elements of the protesters (many calling themselves “revolutionist youth”). Those elements forced the temporary closure of Daʻwah, Badr, Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq and Fadila party offices, claiming that those parties were impediments to reforms. After coming under mounting criticism, on 10 June, al-Sadr called on his supporters to cease demonstrations during Ramadan, refrain from using violence and prepare for a “peaceful, popular million-man demonstration” at the end of Ramadan.
7. On 10 May, the Council of Representatives announced the resumption of its work at the committee level. The plenary, however, was deferred owing to the continued split within the Council and, in turn, the lack of a quorum. After over a month of extensive mediation efforts to bring back those sections of the Members of Parliament who had boycotted or suspended their participation for various reasons, the plenary of the Council reconvened on 29 May to express support for the Government’s recent launch of an operation to retake Fallujah. Notably, the session included members of the Council of Representatives from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
8. In his address to the session, the Prime Minister stated that the differences between political blocs over the parliamentary impasse were minimal, that the Council of Representatives had an important oversight role to play and that nominations would be accepted for the leadership positions of independent commissions, ministerial undersecretaries and military leadership, as a next step. Subsequent efforts to hold a session of the Council with a full agenda failed and on 31 May, the Speaker of Parliament, Salim al-Juburi, announced that the legislative break for the Council would commence on 1 June. Since the swearing in of the new ministers of trade, oil and transport did not take place, those ministries are currently headed by acting ministers.
9. In May, and again in early June, the Federal Supreme Court indicated that it would rule on the legality of the contested 14 and 26 April sessions of the Council of Representatives only after its expert panels had examined the matter further. The appeals filed by the three ministers who were voted out of their posts during the session of the Council on 26 April remain pending.