Politics

Iraq high committee to investigate major corruption, criminal cases

By Khalid al-Taie

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi at a meeting Monday (August 31st) with senior security and military officials. [Photo courtesy of the Prime Minister's media office]

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi on Sunday (August 30th) announced the formation of a high committee of inquiry that will look into major corruption and criminal cases in the country.

The committee will have the power to "restore the authority of the state and the rights of citizens from the hands of the corrupt and the aggressors", Kadhemi said in a televised speech.

"Security forces have acted with all their power against groups that carry out kidnappings and assassinations and carry unregulated weapons," he said, adding that the results of extensive investigations into these matters will soon be announced.

Previous prime ministers have formed high committees to expose high-level corruption cases, but no results came about due to pressure exerted by corrupt political factions, a human rights source told Diyaruna on Tuesday.

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Iraqi protestors in Baghdad's Tahrir Square on November 9th look at political cartoons that convey their demands to fight corruption and execute reforms. [Diyaruna]

"But today we have great signs of hope that the new governmental committee will produce real and tangible results," said the source, who requested to remain anonymous.

This move comes on the heels of "serious steps by the government to impose the rule of law", he said, such as the security campaign to consolidate control of border crossings and tackle corruption and smuggling at ports of entry.

The government also has launched an investigation into the killing of activists and demonstrators, he said.

Kadhemi has assigned his office director Raed Jawhi to oversee the high committee of inquiry, the source said, noting that the latter is an experienced judge who headed the team that investigated Iraq's overthrown president Saddam Hussein.

This indicates a "clear determination to restore the authority of the state and to execute the required popular reforms", he said.

Iraqis support reforms

The fight against corruption has been at the forefront of the demands raised by the protestors since the demonstrations started last October.

After assuming office in May, Kadhemi pledged to bring all corrupt persons to justice, regardless of their position in the country.

"The task will certainly not be easy, and there will be great challenges that make the current government face a very difficult test," the source noted.

But there is strong popular momentum in support of reforms, and if the government succeeds in these efforts, "we will see positive change in public attitudes that will translate into greater participation in the early elections slated for [mid-2021]", he said.

Enacting reform will also lead to a decline in sectarianism, which corrupt figures have always exploited to stay in power and mobilise citizens to harm the democratic process, he added.

Security officials have received some leads about the recent assassinations of activists in Basra and Baghdad, said the source, and the results of the investigations will be announced upon completion, as Kadhemi stated Sunday.

"It is very important to find the culprits and punish them, and curb all displays of unregulated weapons, as that will give citizens a feeling of reassurance in the upcoming elections," he said.

Overall, the security situation in Basra has improved after military forces were deployed and senior security leaders were replaced, the source added.

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