12.10.2011 - UNESCO Office for Iraq

Conference for human rights activists: dawn of a federation

© Dhea Subhi/2011Human rights activists participate in laying the foundation for a Human Rights Federation in Erbil from 27-29 September.

In an unprecedented historical event, Human rights defenders from around Iraq came together to work towards implementing greater coordination and influence in promoting human rights in the country.

The defenders, participants in an Iraq Trust Fund project “Protection of Media Professionals, Human Rights Defenders and Members of the Academic Community in Iraq,” took the first steps in creating a Federation of human rights activists at a conference that took place in Erbil from September 27-29, 2011. More than 70 Iraqi activists attended, from within the fields of human rights, academia and media professionals.

Mr. Hassan Saleh Salman, Director of the Ministry of Human Right’s Department of Planning, described the conference’s accomplishments as “significant seeing as the foundations are laid for a federation whose objective is to encompass the concept of better human rights standards as well as renewed hope for the future of Iraqis across the board, including all human rights activists.”

The president of the newly created Federation Steering Committee, Dr. Maha Al Sakban, a human rights activist from Baghdad, expressed optimism at the formation of such a Federation as it actively creates allegiance and communication between human rights defenders in Iraq, in enabling them to act as one unified voice in the fight for human rights.

The UNESCO-led project is implemented in cooperation with UNOPS and the UNAMI Human Right Office. The legal advisor to the newly created Federation, Mr. Sameer Nooradeen of Kirkuk said, “UN support is a key factor in ensuring the success of the Federation and helping it to realize its role in promoting human rights for all Iraqis.”

In addition to the inauguration of the Federation, the conference participants analyzed the current human rights situation in Iraq and outlined key mechanisms to better of address major Human Rights abuses in Iraq. These included the following:

  • Enhancing a culture of Human Rights in Iraq.
  • Advocating for the government's fulfillment of their responsibility to bring the perpetrators of attacks to justice, thereby eradicating injustice and impunity.
  • Enhancing Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) capacity to communicate and coordinate with national institutions such as Ministries, the Judiciary and Commissions.

The participation of the civil society in defending human rights and public freedoms and enhancing democratic practices in building the State and society are of fundamental importance if Iraq wishes to continue developing a healthy and robust democratic system. This conference promises to be the first in a series of events representing the fundamental milestones in the establishment of a comprehensive mechanism promoting and defending human rights in Iraq, and the elaboration of a safety net for all victims and defenders in this field.

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