UN Mission in Iraq to End Next Year

13 January 2023, Berlin: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani makes remarks at a press conference at the German Federal Chancellery. (dpa)
13 January 2023, Berlin: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani makes remarks at a press conference at the German Federal Chancellery. (dpa)
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UN Mission in Iraq to End Next Year

13 January 2023, Berlin: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani makes remarks at a press conference at the German Federal Chancellery. (dpa)
13 January 2023, Berlin: Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani makes remarks at a press conference at the German Federal Chancellery. (dpa)

At the request of Baghdad, the UN Security Council unanimously decided Friday that the United Nations political mission in Iraq would leave the country at the end of 2025 after more than 20 years.

Earlier this month, in a letter to the council, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani called for the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) to be closed.

Al-Sudani said UNAMI had overcome "great and varied challenges" and that "the grounds for having a political mission in Iraq" no longer exist.

The UNSC resolution adopted on Friday extended the mission's mandate for "a final 19-month period until 31 December 2025 after which UNAMI will cease all work and operations."

The mission was established by a UN Security Council resolution in 2003 at the request of the Iraqi government after the US-led invasion and fall of Saddam Hussein.

It advises the government on political dialogue and reconciliation, as well as helping with elections and security sector reform.

During the mission's previous renewal in May 2023, the Council asked the secretary-general to launch a strategic review, which was overseen by German diplomat Volker Perthes.

In a report issued in March, Perthes signaled that an end to the mandate could be appropriate, concluding that "the two-year period identified by the government for the mission's drawdown can be a sufficient time frame to make further progress."

He also said that the period would provide time to reassure reluctant Iraqis that the transition "will not lead to a reversal of democratic gains or threaten peace and security."

Given that UN missions can only operate with the host nation's consent, Russia, China, Britain and France this month all voiced support for a transition in the partnership between Iraq and the United Nations.

The United States was more vague, with UN ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield saying UNAMI still had "important work to do," and making no mention of Baghdad's request.

She emphasized the mission's role in organizing elections and promoting human rights, even though Iraq asked that the mission focus more on economic issues.



Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory ‘Illegal’, Says UN Top Court

The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
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Israeli Occupation of Palestinian Territory ‘Illegal’, Says UN Top Court

The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)
The panel of judges, with President Nawaf Salam (C), at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the Netherlands, during a non-binding ruling on the legal consequences of the Israeli occupation of the West Bank and East Jerusalem, 19 July 2024. (EPA)

The UN's top court, in a sweeping opinion on Friday, said that Israel's decades-long occupation of Palestinian territory was "illegal" and needed to end as soon as possible.

The advisory opinion by The Hague-based International Court of Justice was immediately slammed as a "decision of lies" by Israel, but welcomed by the Palestinian presidency, which called it "historic".

The ICJ's statement, called an "advisory opinion", is not binding, but it comes amid mounting concern over the death toll and destruction in Israel's war against Hamas sparked by the group's brutal October 7 attacks.

It is also likely to increase diplomatic pressure on Israel, whose lawmakers on Thursday voted to oppose a Palestinian state, calling it an "existential threat".

In The Hague, ICJ presiding judge Nawaf Salam said: "The court has found... that Israel's continued presence in the Palestinian Territories is illegal."

Israel is "under the obligation to bring to an end its unlawful presence as rapidly as possible," the judge said in its finding, read at the Peace Palace, seat of the ICJ.

The ICJ added that Israel was "under an obligation to cease immediately all new settlement activities and to evacuate all settlers" from occupied land.

Israel's policies and practices, including the maintenance of a wall between the territories, "amount to annexation of large parts" of the occupied territory, the court said.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu slammed the ICJ's opinion as a "decision of lies".

"The Jewish people are not occupiers in their own land -- not in our eternal capital Jerusalem, nor in our ancestral heritage of Judea and Samaria" (the occupied West Bank), Netanyahu said in a statement.

Palestinian foreign minister Riyad Al-Maliki called it a "watershed moment".

A separate, high-profile case that South Africa has brought before the court alleges that Israel has committed genocidal acts during its Gaza offensive.

South Africa, in a statement, called upon the international community "to bring an immediate end to the occupation and the gross violations of international humanitarian and human rights law being perpetrated by Israel against the Palestinian people".

- 'Extreme danger' -

In late 2022, the UN's General Assembly asked the ICJ to give an "advisory opinion" on the "legal consequences arising from the policies and practices of Israel in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem".

The ICJ held a week-long session in February to hear submissions from countries following the request -- supported by most countries within the Assembly.

During the hearings, most speakers called on Israel to end its 57-year occupation. They warned a prolonged occupation posed an "extreme danger" to stability in the Middle East and beyond.

But the United States said Israel should not be legally obliged to withdraw without taking its "very real security needs" into account.

Israel did not take part in the oral hearings.

- 'Ongoing violation' -

The General Assembly asked the ICJ to consider two questions.

Firstly, the court should examine the legal consequences of what the UN called "the ongoing violation by Israel of the right of the Palestinian people to self-determination".

In its answer, the ICJ's judges said Israel's "unlawful policies and practices are in breach" of its "obligation to respect the rights of the Palestinian people and their right to self-determination".

In June 1967, Israel defeated some of its Arab neighbors in a six-day war, seizing the West Bank and East Jerusalem, at the time annexed by Jordan, the Golan Heights from Syria, and the Gaza Strip and Sinai Peninsula from Egypt.

Israel then began to settle the 70,000 square kilometers (27,000 square miles) of seized Arab territory.

The UN later declared the occupation of Palestinian territory illegal, and Cairo regained Sinai under its 1979 peace deal with Israel.

- 'Restrictions' -

The ICJ also was asked to look into the consequences of what it described as Israel's "adoption of related discriminatory legislation and measures".

In this finding, the ICJ said a "regime of comprehensive restrictions imposed by Israel on Palestinians consisted of systemic discrimination based on race, religion or ethnic origin."

The ICJ rules in disputes between states. Normally, its judgements are binding but it has few means to enforce them.

In this case, however, the opinion is non-binding, although most advisory opinions are in fact acted upon.

The ICJ has previously issued advisory opinions on the legality of Kosovo's 2008 declaration of independence from Serbia and apartheid South Africa's occupation of Namibia.

It also handed down an opinion in 2004 declaring that parts of the wall erected by Israel in the occupied Palestinian territory were illegal and should be torn down.

Israel has not complied with that ICJ ruling.