Cultural Salon on “Remembering the Iraqi Missing and Disappeared”

Baghdad, 1 October 2011

On 1st October 2012, a public meeting, hosted by the Safia Al Souhail Literary and Cultural Salon, was held on the topic of the disappeared and missing persons in Iraq, before and after 2003.
The meeting has among its guest of honor the Iraqi filmmaker Mohammad Darraji, the director of “Ibn Babel” (Son of Babylon) and winner of 25 international awards.
The movie has been the center of local and international attention as it addresses the issue of the Iraqi missing persons and mass graves by depicting the sectarian violence in the years 2006 and 2007. The film participated in over 125 festivals and received 25 awards. The meeting was also an opportunity to announce the showing of the film in the Iraqi Parliament on 5 October 2012, in presence of MPs, government representatives, diplomatic corps representatives and civil society representatives, stressing that it is the first time a film is shown in Parliament.
Participants to the discussion included the Undersecretary of the Ministry of Culture, Mr. Jaber Al Jabiri, Dr. Bushra Zuweini, Advisor to the Prime Minister on Affairs of Military Operation Victims, Iraqi parliamentarians (including Najiha Al Amiri, Iraqi MP and member of the Martyrs and Political Prisoners Committee), representatives of human rights organizations (including Mr. William Wardah, President of Hamourabi Humanitarian Organization, Samia Aziz, former MP for the Feyli Kurds), the Ambassadors of the UAE, the Arab League, Jordan, Lebanon, representatives of the Italian and American Embassies, the European Union, the Consul of Romania in Iraq as well as local and international media.

Participants agreed on the following recommendations:

  • as demanded by many activists and specialized entities, to conduct amendments through specialized parliamentary committees (including the Iraqi Missing Rights Guarantee Committee), in order to face the gaps to a number of existing laws and to address the issue of mass graves and missing and disappeared persons in Iraqi in all aspects and for all times, before and after 2003. The issue of the missing and disappeared does not only apply to the era prior to 2003, adding that many were lost after the date in view of the difficult circumstances that included murder, kidnapping and blackmail, which has led to many unidentified bodies. Several laws, such as “Prisoners and Martyrs Law”, “Mass Graves Law” and “Victims and Terrorism Law” have already been passed but their execution is difficult and they are characterized by many loopholes and inaccuracies which jeopardize the compensation process to the families of missing and disappeared. Families and children of the victims who were unjustly treated and oppressed by the former regime should feel that their rights are protected.
  • the establishment of a national center for missing and disappeared persons with three branches, in the center, south and in Kurdistan, that has been in the waiting for over six years. In 2003, the Ministry for Human Rights worked on expediting the creation of a National Disappeared Center. The issue was closed in 2004, and was not activated after that.
  • the need to build a comprehensive database with accurate statistics on the numbers of the missing and disappeared persons. The final number remains unknown due to the lack of an accurate and comprehensive database. The Parliament worked on drafting laws in this direction, but there are problems in execution. Sound and efficient judicial procedures for registering the disappeared should be adopted and implemented.
  • to create a free wall in every governorate in which the names of the missing persons are documented.
  • to foster international cooperation in the field of technical and scientific/forensic assistance, in particular with the UN specialized agencies, including UNAMI, the International Red Cross and other specialized organizations.
  • to foster cooperation with neighbouring countries: there are bodies on the border areas of the Arab shores in the south and Kurdistan areas as a result of the Iraq-Iran War. The bodies cannot be taken out of the graves without starting a large mine removal operation. This needs joint work with the neighboring countries, in line with the trilateral committee formed between Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia with the support of the International Red Cross for the missing and imprisoned as a result of the Kuwait invasion and the Gulf War.
  • to promote and facilitate the creation of families of victims associations to pressure legislators and politicians to support their causes and ensure that the victims are not forgotten, in addition to ensuring justice for their families.