Election of Kurdistan Human Rights Commission Chief Draws Wide Criticism


28/12/2012 RUDAW – ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – This month’s election of Zia Butrus as president of the Iraqi Kurdistan Parliament’s Human Rights Commission has drawn wide criticism b y several political blocs, who have questioned both the voting process and the Assyrian Christian’s qualifications for the post.

“The Parliament speaker implemented the bylaws in a discretionary manner,” said Bilal Sulaiman, a member of the Kurdistan Islamic League (Komal) bloc, questioning the way the election process was conducted. He said the speaker had violated voting regulations by deciding to repeat the voting process after Butrus received a large number of ‘nay’ votes.

“They said the candidate won by getting 40 ‘yay’ votes,” Sulaiman said.

He added that according to the commission’s bylaws, the elected president must be neutral, but that Butrus was neither neutral nor qualified for the position.He said Butrus was, “A physics graduate and a leader of a Christian party in the Kurdistan region.”

“Since we do not have a constitutional court to challenge the decision of the speaker, we have no choice but complain to the Almighty about our plight,” Sulaiman complained.

The Kurdistan Islamic Union (KIU), which had its own nominee for the post, also questioned the manner in which Butrus was elected. “The speaker initially said that all blocs are entitled to have their own nominees, but later on they did not allow our nominee to run for the post,” said Samir Saleem, of the KIU bloc. Several MPs of the ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) also did not approve the election of the new president, and abstained from voting. “I am the chairman of the Human Rights Commission in the Parliament and I was unaware about the new candidate for this post,” said MP Salar Mahmoud. He added that more candidates should have been allowed to run for the post, not just one.”Many individuals had submitted their resumes to the parliament. We should have had more than one candidate,” he said.

“Similar things happened in the past, but this time it was a surprise for us and we were not expecting it,” said Sozan Shahab, leader of the Kurdistan bloc. “The speaker and prime minister of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) had agreed on appointing this person. They decided to appoint a Christian for this post because they are from this region and have rights,” Shahab said. The three opposition parties in parliament have asked Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani not to ratify the election. But Shahab said Barzani was reluctant to agree because he was worried that turning down a Christian would invite negative international reaction toward the KRG. Butrus has said he was elected in a democratic manner. “My frist job is to protect the rights of those who voted against me, because I know they have nothing against me and they just have used their own democratic right,” he said.