On September 10, 2008, the Iraqi Presidential Council approved Resolution 26, ratifying a parliamentary resolution condemning the crimes of Saddam Hussein’s regime against the Kurds as acts of “genocide”. The
Niqash met with Kurdish Member of Parliament, Zana Rostay, a lawyer and a member of the legal committee to discuss the resolution and its potential implications.
Niqash: What are the motives behind the new resolution?
Rostay: Resolution 26 issued by the Iraqi Republic Presidency Council did not emerge out of a vacuum. It emerged to emphasize an earlier decision taken by the Iraqi parliament on April 14, 2008 - to substantiate it and to expand it. Kurdistan's parliament demanded that all acts committed by the former regime against Kurds in Iraq-Kurdistan be considered genocide. This has been decreed by the new resolution issued by the highest lawmaking body, parliament, and ratified by the Presidency Council. Thus the resolution has gained legal weight and will have legal implications that can be pursued.
Niqash: Will the new resolution have any international dimensions?
Rostay: The resolution does not have any implications beyond Iraq’s borders if it is not adopted by the UN. The region’s government accomplished the first phase by defining the Anfal and chemical attacks against the Kurds as acts of genocide; this was followed by resolution 26; and now we are focusing on telling the world about this genocide. The first step was an international conference held in Erbil which was attended by Arabs and foreigners. During the conference many studies and research papers were introduced on the Anfal operation with the aim of internationalizing the issue and drawing the world’s attention to acts of genocide committed against the Kurds.
Niqash: Is there a relationship between the timing of the resolution and the current conflict between the central government and the Kurdish Regional Government?
Rostay: It may be that the Iraqi Presidency Council opted to issue the resolution at this time to ease the tense political atmosphere between the regional government and Baghdad. We understood what they meant with this message and it was warmly received by Kurdistan’s regional government as expressed in the statement issued by the regional Presidency on September 11.
Niqash: To what extend can the current Iraqi government be held responsible for the crimes of the former regime according to this resolution?
Rostay: The presidency’s resolution was very brief. It was one line which did not indicate who will be held responsible, what are the consequences, and it did not touch upon the issue of compensation. But obviously, since it was the former regime that committed this crime, the government should be held responsible in a similar way as it is held responsible for Iraqi debts incurred during Saddam’s reign, which Iraq is still paying.
Niqash: Does this resolution have any other political implications for the Kurds?
Rostay: One of the desired results of internationalizing the genocide committed against the Kurds is to encourage similar resolutions from international bodies so as to exert pressure on concerned parties to provide guarantees that this tragedy will not reoccur. So long as the issue is kept within the Iraqi framework and does not become an international issue Resolution 26 in itself will not provide any guarantees on the Kurds’ right to self-determination. However, the resolution gives the Kurds a strong basis on which to highlight their concerns, to be skeptical about government procedures and to threaten self-determination if threats emerge to the Kurdish future from partners in government.
Niqash: But can the Kurds use this resolution as a basis to for separation?
Rostay: It is possible to build on this resolution as one of the reasons for establishing a Kurdish state if international and regional circumstances allow it. Kurdish leaders inserted in the preamble to the Iraqi constitution a provision stating that “adherence to this constitution preserves Iraq’s free union of people”. This means that any serious infringement of the Iraqi constitution, particularly regarding the rights of the people of Kurdistan, will give the region the right to reconsider whether it wants to remain in a united Iraq or not.
Niqash: What about compensation? Does this resolution give the victims’ families the right to demand compensation from the Iraqi government?
Rostay: Prior to this resolution the Supreme Criminal Court issued a law to compensate the families of Anfal genocide victims. The latest resolution issued by the Presidency Council, although it did not mention compensation, provides the same legal basis to claim compensation. The mechanism of implementation is another issue which may require a new presidential decree. According to my information, there is currently no law regulating the issue.
Niqash: What are the next steps that the Kurdish regional government will take following this resolution?
Rostay: The Kurdish political leadership and the region’s government should move at the international level, especially with friendly countries, to give the issue an international dimension on the basis of this resolution. Additionally, we should mobilize the support of friendly lobbying groups in western countries to seek the internationalization of the Kurdish genocide issue. The Kurdistan Alliance bloc should expedite the submission to parliament of a draft law regarding compensating of victims’ families. A portion of the federal budget should be allocated for the reconstruction and development of areas that witnessed genocidal acts.