1 . The present report is submitted pursuant to Security Council resolution 2522 (2020), in which the Secretary-General was requested to report every three months on progress made towards fulfilling the mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). The report covers key developments relating to Iraq and provides an update on the activities of the United Nations in Iraq since my previous report of 11 August 2020 (S/2020/792) and the briefing to the Security Council by the Special Representative for Iraq and Head of UNAMI on 26 August.
II. Summary of key political developments
A. Political situation
2 . Preparations for early elections, a popular demand and the Government’s priority, have been the focus of political activities. On 31 July, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, announced that parliamentary elections would be held on 6 June 2021. The next day, the Independent High Electoral Commission issued a statement expressing its readiness to hold elections in 2021, provided that four conditions were met: (a) the finalization and publication of the electoral law and t he technical annexes thereto; (b) agreement on the membership of the Federal Supreme Court, which is necessary for the certification of electoral results; (c) the provision of the necessary budget, security and technical support by the Government; and (d) United Nations and international “support and monitoring”.
3 . The President of Iraq, Barham Salih, in a statement on 4 August, welcomed the Prime Minister’s announcement and indicated that he would approve any request from the Prime Minister to dissolve parliament, which he would subsequently submit to the Council of Representatives for a vote. He noted that elections would be held within two months of the dissolution vote, in accordance with article 64 of the Constitution. The Government, the Independent High Electoral Commission, the judiciary, parliamentarians, political blocs and others have since been preparing the ground for early elections.
4 . On 13 August, the Prime Minister met the Board of Commissioners of the Independent High Electoral Commission to discuss technical preparations. He affirmed the Government’s determination to hold free, fair and credible elections, urged the Commission to intensify its preparations, and reiterated that his Government would employ all its capacities to hold elections on the set date. He also requested that all ministries and departments facilitate the Commission’s work.
5 . On 24 August, the Speaker of the Council of Representatives, Mohammed al-Halbousi, and other parliamentarians also met with members of the Indep endent High Electoral Commission and its electoral security committee. During a review of the Commission’s electoral preparations, the Speaker affirmed the Council of Representatives support for the work of the Commission and underlined the need to preserve the Commission’s independence in order to restore confidence in the electoral process.
6 . The Council of Representatives reconvened on 5 September, the first parliamentary session since 24 June. The parliamentary legal committee presented its latest report on the finalization of the technical annexes to the electoral law. It reported that the delineation of constituencies remained unresolved, noting that most political blocs had not provided their final positions. During that session, the Council of Representatives concluded the first reading of the draft amendment to the Federal Supreme Court law, which, if passed, would allow the Court to reach a quorum. A second reading of the law was completed during the session on 21 September.
7 . The session of the Council of Representatives on 26 September was set aside for completing the electoral legislative annexes. However, parliamentarians were unable to reach consensus on the delineation of constituencies and the annexes remain under consideration in the Council of Representatives.
8 . The Government continued to discuss measures to address the current economic situation, which has been worsened by the impact of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).
During the parliamentary session on 5 September, the Speaker noted tha t the Council of Ministers had missed the 60-day deadline to submit an economic reform programme, a requirement of the law on domestic and external borrowing ratified on 25 June. The Speaker requested the General Secretariat of the Council of Representatives to invite the Ministers of Finance and Planning to appear in parliament to answer questions on the matter.
9 . The economic reform programme was discussed at a meeting convened on 6 September by the Prime Minister and the Speaker and attended by ministers, deputies and advisers. Participants also discussed the Government’s general budget for 2020, cooperation between legislative and executive authorities on the national economy and the federal budget for 2021. The Ministers of Finance and Planning attended the session of the Council of Representatives on 8 September to address questions about the economic reform programme. The Government formally adopted the White Paper for economic reforms on 13 October.
10 . At a special session on 14 September, the Council of Ministers approved a draft 2020 federal budget law to organize the spending process and secure the necessary expenditures for the remaining three months of the fiscal year. The draft was submitted to the Council of Representatives for adoption on 21 September, but subsequently recalled for further revision.
11 . The Government renewed its commitment to empower women and advance their political, economic and social participation. On 1 October, the Minister for Foreign Affairs announced Government plans to adopt a national development plan for women, which would complement existing legislation to strengthen women’s participation in senior decision-making roles.
12 . The Government made progress on its commitment to compensate victims of the violence perpetrated against demonstrators since October 2019. On 11 August, the Council of Ministers adopted a decision to provide medical treatment to injured protesters. It further granted protest victims, to be identified by the Government, certain rights and privileges available under the Martyrs’ Foundation law (2009).
During a speech on 30 August, on the occasion of the Ashura’ religious festival, the Prime Minister announced that the Government had completed the first phase of its investigation by compiling a list of martyrs, had begun to review the list of the wounded, and had started to make compensation payments.
13 . Protests continued in central and southern governorates. Protesters called for broad reforms, accountability for perpetrators of protest-related violence, job creation and the improvement of public services. Protests escalated in Basrah and Dhi Qar following violence against activists, including targeted killings. On 16 August, clashes broke out with the security forces as protesters gathered in front of the Governor’s residence in Basrah to demand justice for an activist assassinated on 14 August.
Following the assassination of a woman activist on 19 August, demonstrators demanded the removal of the Governor and set fire to the local office of th e Council of Representatives.
14 . In response to the events on 14 and 16 August, the Prime Minister dismissed Basrah’s Director of National Security and its police chief on 17 August. He then visited Basrah on 22 August to meet the family of the woman activist killed on 19 August. While there, he publicly promised to hold accountable those responsible for the killing of activists. Separately, on 3 September, the Ministry of Interior issued an order to disband the Law and Order Forces command, created in October 2019 to protect major social gatherings, and transferred its personnel to the Baghdad police department. This followed the Prime Minister’s announcement of a re-evaluation of the command, after reports of illegal activity by its members in Baghdad.
15 . Meanwhile, in Dhi Qar Governorate, the Security Media Cell of the Office of the Prime Minister reported that an explosive device had detonated at the sit-in site in Al-Haboubi Square in Nasiriyah on 21 August. The next day, protesters in Nasiriyah set fire to offices of Kata’ib Hizbullah and the local headquarters of several political parties.
16 . In Sulaymaniyah on 12 and 22 August, protesters called for the immediate dissolution of the Kurdistan Regional Government, the establishment of an interim authority, early elections and the appointment of non-partisan candidates in judicial and electoral institutions. During these demonstrations, the Halabjah municipality headquarters was set on fire. In Dahuk Governorate, a protest took place on 19 August against the opening of the Ibrahim Khalil border crossing with Turkey to Turkish vehicles. On 27 September, protesters in Sulaymaniyah demanded the payment of civil service salaries.
17 . As a measure to counter corruption, the Prime Minister issued an executive order on 27 August to form a permanent committee to investigate “corruption and major crimes”. The order clarified the authority and staffing of the committee and noted that the Counter-Terrorism Service “shall implement the decisions issued by investigation judges or the courts on the cases related to the work of this committee in accordance with the law”. Arrests have since been made under warrants issued by the committee. In addition, the Prime Minister has reported on an agreement with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) for the arrest of several “senior corrupt officials” living outside Iraq.
18 . The Prime Minister also highlighted the threat of unauthorized weapons and the need to control them as part of efforts to restore State authority, another government priority. During a visit on 3 September to the Joint Operations Command, the Prime Minister instructed security leaders to address the issue. On 8 September, the spokesperson of the Commander-in-Chief reported that operations launched in Baghdad, Basrah and Maysan Governorates had led to the arrest of wanted persons and the confiscation of unauthorized weapons.
19 . The COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect daily life in Iraq and remained a focus of Government activity, directed and coordinated by the High Committee for Health and National Safety, chaired by the Prime Minister. On 15 August, the Committee extended the partial curfew to seven days a week, restricted movements between governorates and banned all tourist travel to Iraq, although airports remained open to commercial passenger flights. On 7 September, the Committee adopted new health measures that included increasing staff attendance in government institutions to 50 per cent, and the reopening of all land border crossings for commercial purposes. It also granted the Independent High Electoral Commission permission to open voter registration centres and to exempt its staff from curfew regulations.