Iraqi MPs have approved the first independent human rights commission in the country’s history, with a remit to track rights violations, lawmaker Ashwaq al-Jaff said on Tuesday.
“The main role of this commission is to monitor all violations of human rights in all fields and in all governmental and non-governmental institutions,” Jaff said of the High Commission for Human Rights, which was approved by parliament on Monday.
“Any citizen will have the right to file a complaint directly to the commission,” said Jaff, a member of parliament’s human rights committee.
Jaff said the commission will take “independent decisions” and “will issue annual reports to the parliament and to the international organisations.”
“We are a country that lived for 35 years in which human rights were violated, and even after 2003 there were some violations of human rights. The role of this commission is to show the citizens what human rights are,” she said.
All of its members signed a commitment not to belong to political parties while serving on the commission, Jaff said.
The commission will replace the Human Rights Ministry after 2014 elections at the latest, she said.
A parliamentary source said that MPs on Monday approved the commission, which will be made up of 11 members, among them two women, and three substitutes, who will serve four-year terms.
Salama al-Khafaji, a 53-year-old Shiite dentist who was a member of the US-backed interim governing council, will head the commission, the source said.
Elected in 2005 to the national assembly charged with drafting the constitution, Khafaji defended the rights of women and was in favour of a secular government.
She has escaped multiple attempts on her life, including one which killed her 17-year-old son.
The commission includes six Shiites, four Sunnis and a Yazidi. Ethnically, it has eight Arabs, two Kurds and a Turkmen. Its members are from nine Iraqi provinces and work in the field of human rights, the parliament source said.
According to Article 102 of the Iraqi constitution, the High Commission for Human Rights and several other commissions “are considered independent commissions subject to monitoring by (parliament).”
The United Nations hailed the approval of the commission “as a landmark achievement,” in a statement issued late on Monday.
“For the first time in its history, there is an independent national institution to promote and protect the rights of all Iraq’s people,” UN envoy Martin Kobler said in the statement.
And the US embassy in Baghdad said in a statement issued on Tuesday that, “we congratulate Iraq’s Council of Representatives (parliament) on its historic decision.”