New York, 1 July 2014 – Iraq’s violent insurgency has claimed some 2,400 lives – more than half of them civilians – a “staggering number”, declared the top United Nations envoy there, as he called on all Iraqi leaders to work together to foil attempts to rip apart the country’s social fabric.
“The staggering number of civilian casualties in one month points to the urgent need for all to ensure that civilians are protected,” said Mr. Ban’s Special Representative for Iraq, Nickolay Mladenov. The UN says that June was the deadliest month in the country since 2007.
In a statement from the UN Assistance Mission (UNAMI), which he heads, Mr. Mladenov urged officials to start forming a new Government which could unite the country, after today’s first session of the Council or Representatives ended without a quorum:
“As large parts of the country remain under the control of ISIL and armed groups, it is imperative that national leaders work together to foil attempts to destroy the social fabric of Iraqi society,” he said.
The Special Representative expressed regret that Iraq’s newly elected Council had been unable to reach an agreement on naming a new Speaker today. Acting speaker Mahdi al-Hafidh ended the proceedings after most of the 328-member legislature did not return from a short break, according to media reports.
“Politicians in Iraq need to realize that it is no longer business as usual,” Mr. Mladenov said, stressing that any failure to observe the deadlines set by the Constitution will be detrimental to the country’s integrity.
“I call upon all political leaders to set aside their differences and, in a spirit of compromise, elect a Speaker during the next session, due to be held on 8 July,” he underscored.
Speaking to the press last week, Mr. Mladenov underscored that while a military plan is needed to stop the advance of the armed group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL/ISIS), Iraq requires a solution also based on political and social processes that will address the concerns of all communities.
The fighting has internally displaced an estimated one million people who join one million people already seeking refuge in Iraq as a result of the Syrian conflict and previous conflicts. The bulk of them have fled to the autonomous Kurdish region, where UN agencies are overstretching resources to provide support.
The Government of Saudi Arabia meanwhile donated today $500 million towards the humanitarian effort. In thanking the leadership of King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz, Mr. Ban said the “timely funding” would enable the UN and its partners to assist “millions of Iraqi men, women and children whose lives were torn apart by the conflict.”
The deepening crisis is also increasing the violence in the country. More than 2,417 Iraqis were killed last month and another 2,287 were injured in acts of terrorism and violence, according to the UNAMI human rights team.
The figure does not include the Anbar province, where UN human rights teams are not on the ground and cannot independently verify the numbers. But according to official figures, 244 civilians were reportedly killed in the province during the past month, and 588 civilians injured.
“The last time such a high number of civilians had been killed in a single month was in 2007,” Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) spokesperson, Ravina Shamdasani, said in Geneva. She reiterated the UN Office’s calls that all parties of the conflict respect international human rights law and international humanitarian law, and called on the Iraqi authorities to hold accountable those responsible for any violations.
In addition to the civilians, at least 886 members of the Iraqi Security Forces were killed, and 524 were injured. Anbar excluded, Baghdad was the worst affected Governorate with 1,090 civilian casualties, followed by Ninewa, a northern province bordering Syria, and Salahadin, which borders Ninewa and Baghdad.