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13 Aug 2013

Solidarity with the "National Campaign to Abolish Monthly Benefits for Former Members of the Council of Representatives" and with the Campaign’s Decision to Demonstrate on the 31st of August

Italy - August 10, 2013

The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) announces its support and solidarity with the National Campaign to Abolish Monthly Benefits for Former Members of the Council of Representatives, which is being promoted by Iraqi civil society leaders and organizations. The ICSSI supports the Campaign members’ right to protest and their right to peacefully assemble on the 31st of August. Challenging governmental corruption and the misuse of public money is an essential part of building a democratic state and respecting human rights in Iraq, and we call on international activists and organizations to stand with Campaign members’ as they work toward these goals.

The National Campaign to Abolish Monthly Benefits for Former Members of the Council of Representatives calls for enactment of a law that abolishes the extravagant, life-long, monthly benefits paid to former members of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, which were authorized by a law passed in the previous session of the Council. Many Iraqi politicians have publically stated that these benefits are a waste of public money and a source of corruption, yet no law to abolish them has been drafted or submitted. Under the Iraqi constitution, draft laws can be submitted by the President of the Republic, the Prime Minister, ten members of the Council of Representatives, or one of its competent authorities (Article 60).

Leaders of the Campaign consider the delay in the preparation and submission of a draft law, despite strong public support to end the payments to former Council members, as a reflection of the hypocrisy of the Iraqi political blocs and their lack of commitment to eliminate governmental corruption and build a just, transparent, and democratic, civil state. Some individual political blocs have announced their intention to waive the benefits rather than submit a draft law abolishing the payments all together. In the face of this failure to address the fundamental demand of the Campaign, the organizers have decided to call for demonstrations in all parts of Iraq on the 31st of this month.

The Campaign has received wide popular support inside and outside Iraq. Iraqis have joined together, regardless of their religion or beliefs, to support the exclusively peaceful and nonviolent actions to promote change. There is near consensus on the legitimacy and importance of the Campaign demands, which are viewed as a cornerstone in the fight against the rampant corruption in Iraq, currently one of the most corrupt countries in the world.

The Campaign was launched a few months ago via social network pages and through collecting signatures on paper petitions in most provinces in southern and central Iraq. Thousands of citizens signed the petitions and supporting pages on social networking sites proliferated. The Campaign is demanding cancellation of payments to all former ministers, high-ranked government officials, and members of provincial councils.

At the beginning of August, the Coordination Committee of the Campaign held a meeting of Campaign activists and coordinators from different Iraqi provinces. They agreed on a number of recommendations including focusing on the demand to abolish the monthly benefits for former members of the Council of Representatives, to require Representatives to return the funds they have already received, and to carry out unified efforts to obtain media coverage of the national Campaign. Slogans that will be used at demonstrations were agreed upon, as well as agreeing to never use partisan or sectarian slogans. Also the Coordination Committee agreed to prepare a working program for each Iraqi province that reflects the province’s local needs. Finally, they formed a legal committee to consider the content of a draft law to abolish monthly benefits, and to obtain official approvals for demonstrations on the 31st of August.

The ICSSI calls upon the Iraqi government to assume its responsibility to ensure the safety and security of peaceful gatherings and demonstrations associated with this Campaign, in accordance with international standards and respect for human rights. The ICSSI calls for the international community to be in solidarity with the Iraqis in their consolidated stand to fight corruption and the waste of public money, and appeals to international organizations and international activists to declare their support for this peaceful Campaign.

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