Iraq: Top UN Envoy Lauds ‘Proper Conduct’ of Election Recount Process

NEW YORK–(ENEWSPF)–17 May 2010 – The top United Nations envoy to Iraq today welcomed the “proper conduct” of the manual recount of votes cast in the country’s March parliamentary polls.

Following an appeal by the State of Law coalition, a political group headed by Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, regarding the election results, the Electoral Judicial Panel ordered the Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) to recount by hand all ballots cast in the governorate of Baghdad.

“The manual recount represented a legal right to deal with complaints and thus has affirmed the legitimacy of the elections,” Ad Melkert, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said in a press release.

According to media reports, the recount has upheld the narrow lead of the party headed by Iyad Allawi, a former prime minister, over Mr. al-Maliki’s coalition in the 325-member Council of Representatives.

Mr. Melkert commended IHEC’s work in ensuring the integrity of the process, as well as its efforts to carry out the recount in a well-organized, professional and transparent manner.

He also voiced pride in the support provided by the UN political mission in Iraq, known as UNAMI, which provided IHEC with advice and support during the pre- and post-election process.

The results, announced yesterday, must still be ratified by the Federal Supreme Court.

The Special Representative called on all parties to begin, as soon as possible, talks towards forming a new Government.

At least 12 million people cast their votes in the 7 March polls, in which more than 6,000 candidates took part.

Mr. Melkert said after results were announced later that month that the elections were credible, with no evidence having been found of any systematic or widespread fraud during the vote count. Iraqis, he said, deserved credit for “an historic achievement.”

In a related development, UNAMI’s human rights office recently joined forced with a United Kingdom-based non-government organization, Aegis Trust, to train Iraqi lawyers on international criminal law and fair trial principles.

The five-day workshop in the northern city of Erbil also aimed to deepen the attorneys’ understanding of what qualifies as international crimes, focusing on the principles of international humanitarian law and guidelines for monitoring criminal trials, among other issues.

A senior trial judge from the Iraqi High Tribunal was among those sharing their experiences with the eight lawyers who took part in the workshop.

“This training gave us the opportunity to learn and hear of experiences from other tribunals on accountability for serious crimes,” said a female lawyer who participated in the workshop.

Also in northern Iraq, Sardasht Osman, an independent journalist, was abducted in Erbil and found dead two days later in the city of Mosul, and the head of the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has called for an investigation into his killing.

“The use of violence to muzzle freedom of the press, which is founded on the basic human right of freedom of expression, cannot be tolerated,” said Irina Bokova, the agency’s Director-General.

Mr. Osman, 23, was a reporter for newspaper Ashtiname and also contributed regularly to the independent websites Sbei, Awene, Hawlati and Lvinpress. He was also in the final year of his English studies at the University of Erbil.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, a non-governmental organization, the slain reporter’s brother said that Mr. Osman had received phone threats from people asking him to stop publishing stories critical of regional authorities.