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Kurdish parliament strips opposition MP of immunity

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Kurdish parliament strips opposition MP of immunity

PostAuthor: Anthea » Thu May 07, 2020 8:22 pm

Kurdish parliament strips
opposition MP of immunity


For the first time since its establishment in 1992, the Kurdistan Region Parliament on Thursday stripped an opposition lawmaker of parliamentary immunity

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Soran Omar, a Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) MP, will now have to face a lawsuit lodged against him by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Council of Ministers’ legal body last month for making public claims that Prime Minister Masrour Barzani owns a company and a bank.

The contentious vote was boycotted by 53 of out 111 MPs, including members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), Change Movement (Gorran), Komal, Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU) and New Generation.

Of the 58 parliament members who attended the session, 57 voted for Omar’s immunity to be revoked — including all of the Kurdistan Democratic Party’s (KDP) 45 MP contingent.

The revocation of immunity for three other MPs who had complaints lodged against them for various charges in 2019 were also put to the parliament vote — Omed Khoshnaw, head of the KDP bloc, Ali Hama Salih, head of the Gorran bloc, and Shirin Amin Abdul Aziz, another Gorran MP.

All three were able to hold on comfortably to their legal standing, with revocation of Khoshnaw’s immunity receiving three votes, while that of Salih and Aziz received four apiece.

The KDP orchestrated the inclusion of the stripping of parliamentary immunity from all four MPs on the agenda, but the decision to dust off far older complaints against other MPs could veil the targeting of Omar for the comments about PM Barzani, a senior KDP figure.

The KRG Council of Ministers’ Legal Room issued its complaint against Omar’s claims on April 2.

In response, Kurdistan Region public prosecution office president Judge Azad Hassan called on the Council of Ministers to inform parliament to summon MP Omar to his office’s Public Rights Committee Prosecutor, where he would have to submit evidence about his claims Barzani owned “a company” and “a bank.”

Failure to submit evidence could have resulted in the press of further charges against Omar, the office added.

In compliance with the call, Council of Ministers chief of staff Dr. Sabah Othman forwarded the public prosecutor's order to parliament two days later, to "start necessary works" against Omar.

The move was rejected by parliament speaker Rewaz Fayaq on April 27, according to documents shared by Omar on his Facebook account that purportedly show her signature.

But according to bylaws, any topic can be included on the discussion agenda if chosen by two of the three parliament leadership members, without the consent of the third — even that of speaker Fayaq.

Omar on Tuesday held a press conference describing the lifting of immunity from MPs as a "dangerous development for the ruling system of the Kurdistan Region, for freedom of expression, and the freedom of parliamentary work," he said.

But members of the KDP say stripping MPs of immunity to face legal proceedings is "very legal and normal", and a question of accountability to the public.

"Why should MPs feel like they are above the law and court?” KDP MP Peshawa Hawtamani said. “Why should they think that they do not have to appear before court?”

“If you have become MPs from public votes... just appear before the court and demonstrate why you should be acquitted."

The PUK, Gorran and Komal, KIU and New Generation parliamentary blocs issued a collective call for parliament not to include the lifting of MP immunity on its agenda.

"At this lawmaking session, it is better for the parliament to stay focused on resolving the financial and administrative issues of the Kurdistan Region as well as Erbil-Baghdad relations and the improvement of the livelihood of the people," the blocs jointly announced.

With Fayaq boycotting today’s session, deputy parliament speaker from the KDP Hemin Hawrami and parliament secretary Muna Kahveci had to take the helm.

"I am not for the lifting of immunity from a parliamentarian because they have spoken against the state officials," Fayaq said in reference to Omar.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/070520202
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Kurdish parliament strips opposition MP of immunity

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Re: Kurdish parliament strips opposition MP of immunity

PostAuthor: Anthea » Fri May 08, 2020 11:04 pm

Will this harm Kurdish unity?

At just the very moment Kurdish parties ought to be uniting in the face of economic turbulence and a renewed standoff with Baghdad, the decision to revoke the parliamentary immunity of an opposition MP on Thursday could create deeper fissures among Kurdish factions

The Kurdistan Parliament voted on Thursday to revoke the parliamentary immunity of Soran Omar, a Kurdistan Islamic Group (Komal) MP, allowing Prime Minister Masrour Barzani to sue him for libelous statements submitted to the parliament.

The move, supported by Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and minority blocs in the parliament, was roundly condemned by other factions as an attack on the parliament’s democratic functions.

If the row creates new and deeper schisms between the Kurdistan Region’s parties, it could weaken their collective clout in upcoming battles with the Iraqi federal government over oil sales, the budget, and territorial disputes.

Around two months ago, Kurdish leaders were hailing the strength of Kurdish unity in Baghdad after they collectively rejected the cabinet selections of then-prime minister-designate Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi.

In a meeting of the various factions on March 4, Kurdistan Region President Nechirvan Barzani lauded their “unity in addressing the current situation in the country”.

“The president also reiterated the importance of preserving unity and a common stance in regards to the political events in Iraq,” his office said in a statement.

This feat of unity was not replicated on quite the same scale on Thursday when just the two biggest Kurdish parties, the KDP and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), approved Mustafa al-Khadimi’s new cabinet. All other Kurdish parties boycotted the parliamentary session.

The latest spat over parliamentary immunity could further undermine this fragile unity.

What happened?

The saga began when Omar submitted documents to the parliament accusing the prime minister of owning a company and a bank, which could pose a political conflict of interests.

Barzani responded to the accusations by filing a lawsuit against Omar in early April.

The principal of parliamentary immunity, a key feature of democratic systems worldwide, allows MPs to lay criticism against ministers and other legislators without fear of litigation. Under Kurdish law, this has its limits.

Therefore the Kurdish parliament met on Thursday to vote on the revocation of immunity for four MPs for various perceived infractions. Three of them were spared. Only Omar was stripped of his immunity.

The session was attended by 58 MPs out of 111 – most of them KDP members or MPs from minority groups.

KDP: ‘We do not want disunity’

Aware that the move could sow disunity among the parties, the parliament’s deputy speaker Hemin Hawrami, a KDP member, told reporters: “Today’s event will not affect the relations of KDP and Komal.”

The KDP leadership was “in contact” with Komal leader Ali Bapir before the vote, Hawrami said.

“We do not want disunity between parties. The Kurdistan Region’s interests and the challenges with Baghdad on the Kurdistan Region’s [budget] share are more important than immunity,” he said.

“We have to keep our agreements on big issues and I assure you, you will see, what has been said from here and there is only social media chatter which will only last for 48-72 hours.”

Komal: ‘Weird and illogical’

Bapir released a statement on behalf of Komal on Thursday, warning: “The Kurdistan Region and Iraq are going through a sensitive and difficult period, which requires us to keep peace and our unity as much as possible.”

“Holding a parliament meeting at this time and amid this situation – when the public expect the resolution of issues related to their lives – to revoke the immunity of a parliamentarian is a weird and illogical thing,” he said.

Abdulsattar Majeed, head of Komal bloc in the parliament, also told a press conference on Thursday that: “This is a bad development … whose repercussions will be seen in the future and we will see where it will lead the Kurdistan Region to.”

Challenges

Former Iraqi prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi suspended the KRG’s share of the federal budget in mid-April on the grounds that the Kurdistan Region had failed to deliver its quota of 250,000 barrels per day (bpd) of oil to the state marketing firm SOMO – as per their December 2019 agreement.

The KRG sent a delegation to Baghdad to try and resolve the issue. Although there have been several meetings, there seems to have been little progress. All the while, public sector workers in the Kurdistan Region are going unpaid.

Now that Mustafa al-Khadimi has won parliamentary approval for his cabinet, the arithmetic of the Erbil-Baghdad relationship could soon be shaken up.

However, his cabinet currently contains just one Kurd, weakening the Kurdish voice inside the federal government. Two more cabinet posts usually reserved for Kurdish ministers remain unfilled.

This makes Kurdish unity within the Iraqi parliament more important than ever if Kurdish interests are to be protected – particularly the KRG’s share of the federal budget, which is supposed to be paid in exchange for a daily quota of oil.

Erbil and Baghdad have continued to bicker over various versions of the oil-for-budget agreement, with the KRG receiving a share of the 2019 federal budget yet failing to hand over a single barrel of oil.

In December, Baghdad agreed to send Erbil a 12.67 percent share of the federal budget in exchange for 250,000 barrels per day.

However, with world oil prices falling to historic lows, the COVID-19 pandemic cutting international demand, and the KRG’s continued failure to uphold its end of the bargain, Baghdad seems to have run out of patience.

https://www.rudaw.net/english/kurdistan/08052020

Islamic groups do NOT belong in Parliment

Muslims have tried for centuries to turn Kurds into Muslims but fortunately, their pre Muslim heritage and culture has manages to save them

Kurds should learn from their past and remember the ancient graves of their Kurdish ancestors who, even at the point of a blade, refused to succumb to the barbaric Islam ideology

Kurds, who are by tradition, a happy sharing people, with their colourful clothing, joyful music and dance, do not want to give up those freedoms that were woven into Kurdish culture long before Islam tried to suppress them
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