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IRIN Middle East | Middle East | MIDDLE EAST | MIDDLE EAST: MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 35 for 12-18 August 2005 | Children, Democracy, Economy, Education, Food Security, Gender issues, Health, Human Rights, Peace Security, Refugees IDPs, Other | Weekly
Sunday 25 December 2005
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MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 35 for 12-18 August 2005

[ This report does not necessarily reflect the views of the United Nations]

Key Humanitarian Developments in Iraq

Iraqi politicians failed to meet the 15 August deadline for completion of the new draft constitution, following heated debate on contentious issues.

Members of the Constitution Committee have been given a further seven days to agree on sticking points.

“There is agreement on the structure of government, the president and prime minister, the role of the assembly. There is agreement also in regard to the role of Islam,” US Ambassador to Iraq, Zalmay Khalilzad, told CNN International on Tuesday.

“There are a couple of issues that need to still be agreed on in detail, although in principle there is agreement. One has to do with the issue of federalism,” he added.

On Wednesday in a deadly attack at least 43 people were killed and some 76 were injured following three car bombings in capital, Baghdad, international media reports said. The attacks were carried out less than 30 minutes apart from each other.

“Two of the blasts went off within 10 minutes of each other at 0800 local time at the busy Nahda bus station,” the BBC reported.

The third happened near a hospital, just as victims of the first two attacks were being brought in. Four men have been arrested and questioned on suspicion of being involved in the bombings, officials said.

An investigative BBC TV programme in the UK reported this week on new allegations of Iraqi prisoner abuse this week by British troops in the south of the country.

Newsnight aired interviews with two brothers claiming they had been beaten and denied water and sleep after being arrested in the city of Basra.

“Marhab and Asad Zaaj al-Saghir have not made an official complaint, but have asked to be compensated for the car and cash they say UK troops seized,” a BBC report said.

"They lowered me down... while I was tied up, threw me on the floor and hit me with a stick,” Marhab Zaaj al-Saghir told the programme.

The UK Ministry of Defence said it only investigated claims reported to it.

According to the ministry, 177 investigations into alleged abuse by British troops have been carried out. Of those 156 have been closed with no further action taken.

Accusations of abuse carried out by foreign military forces in Iraq first transpired following the controversial and disturbing photographs released in 2004 of Abu Ghraib prison, where Iraqi prisoners were mistreated.

Meanwhile, a full financial and internal control review of the United Nations procurement system has been ordered, following irregularities in the now defunct Iraq Oil-for-Food programme, a UN statement said on Tuesday.

In an independent inquiry report released last week, former procurement officer Alexander Yakovlev, was accused of soliciting kickbacks under the Iraq programme.

The report also concluded that the former Executive Director of the UN Office of the Iraq Programme, Benon Sevan, "corruptly benefited" from his role in the Oil-for-Food-programme.

In response to the findings, UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan waived the immunity of Yakovlev, and said he would do the same for Sevan, if requested by law enforcement authorities.

Finally, the UN Security Council extended the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) for another 12 months.

At present, there are some 260 UN civilian and military personnel based in Iraq, and that number is expected to rise.

UNAMI was established in August 2003 for a one-year period, but following the deadly attack on UN headquarters in Baghdad on 19 August 2003 the mission relocated and only resumed operations in Iraq in August 2004.


IRAQ: Focus on constitutional concerns
IRAQ: ‘Expired food causing health problems’
YEMEN: Arab civil society groups call for greater political participation
JORDAN: Human rights activists denounce deportation deal with UK
SYRIA: Efforts to improve conditions for Palestinian refugees
SYRIA: Interview with outspoken writer, Maha Hassan
EGYPT: Special report on press freedom
EGYPT: Focus on election campaigning

IRAQ: Focus on constitutional concerns

Every day Mustafa Rawi sits in front of his television set waiting for news confirming when the historical constitution will be finally presented to Iraqis. "For the last month I have been watching closely to see if the constitution will be completed by the deadline 15 August. I cannot see anything new, only the same problems due to the sticking points where agreements have not been reached," said the Baghdad resident.

Full report

IRAQ: ‘Expired food causing health problems’

A serious rise in food poisoning cases caused by expired and contaminated food in Iraq has been reported by the Ministry of Health. Government hospital directors have alerted our ministry that there is an increase in cases on a daily basis, especially in children, caused by poor food quality in the markets,” to Mustafa al-Aani, a senior official at the ministry said.

Full report

YEMEN: Arab civil society groups call for greater political participation

A regional workshop on the role of civil society groups in democratic change wrapped up on Tuesday in the Yemeni capital Sana, calling for active and equal participation of such groups in decision making in the Arab countries. The event, called "The Role of Civil Society in the Current Democratic Changes" brought together more than 50 representatives of political parties and NGOs from Yemen and other Arab states.

Full report

JORDAN: Human rights activists denounce deportation deal with UK

Jordanian human rights activists echoed concerns of international human rights groups that a memorandum of understanding with Britain had few legal safeguards for a fair trial of future deportees from the UK. Human rights activists have voiced concern about the deportation deal which London says protects deportees from ill treatment and under its terms Jordan would have to guarantee a deportee would not be tortured or otherwise mistreated at home and would not face the death penalty.

Full report

SYRIA: Efforts to improve conditions for Palestinian refugees

The continuing needs of thousands of Palestinian refugees residing in Syria have created new challenges, the Syrian General Authority for Palestine Arab Refugees (GAPAR) said at the opening of its annual conference in the capital, Damascus. Management from GAPAR, along with representatives from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) are attending the conference from 15 to 18 August to review refugee needs and achievements thus far, and to plan ahead.

Full report

SYRIA: Interview with outspoken writer, Maha Hassan

Fearing “threats and increasing repression against Kurdish organisations” Syrian-Kurdish journalist and writer, Maha Hassan, went into exile in France in 2004. In an interview with IRIN, Hassan said despite Syria's accession to the UN Convention Against Torture (CAT), the country still has a long way to go in improving basic human rights.

Full report

EGYPT: Special report on press freedom

With presidential and legislative elections fast approaching, journalists are concerned about current legislation governing the press in Egypt, which they feel could seriously affect reporting during this crucial period. The local press still faces restrictions on several levels, according to local and international media watchdog groups.

Full report

EGYPT: Focus on election campaigning

Egypt’s presidential campaign kicked off on Wednesday with dramatic speeches by the two main candidates outlining not dissimilar programmes to reform the country. The country’s first ever multi-candidate presidential campaign will run for three weeks until election day on 7 September and features the president as well as nine other candidates from opposition parties.

Full report


 Theme(s) Children
Other recent MIDDLE EAST reports:

Appeal to Arab world to give more to world’s poorest,  16/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 52 for 11–15 December 2005,  15/Dec/05

“Invisible” children suffering from neglect, says UNICEF,  15/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 51 for 4 – 8 December 2005,  11/Dec/05

MIDDLE EAST: Weekly round-up Number 50 for 25 November – 1 December,  2/Dec/05

Other recent Children reports:

WEST AFRICA: IRIN-WA Weekly Round-up 309 covering 17 - 23 December 2005, 23/Dec/05

SIERRA LEONE: With no prospects, youths are turning to crime and violence, 22/Dec/05

SENEGAL: Everyman’s library, 21/Dec/05

LIBERIA: UN renews ban on arms, diamonds and timber, 21/Dec/05

NIGERIA: Eight children die in attack on oil pipeline, 21/Dec/05

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