Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) calls upon the United Nations to urge the Iraqi authorities to take urgent action to save Basra from a serious environmental disaster


Geneva: 31 August 2018

On-going protests in the second largest city of Iraq, Basra started since the 7th of July and spread all over the country requires the attention of the international community. Indeed, the outburst of anger and frustration over the poor living conditions does not seem to be enough of a reason to push the government to take effective measures to even ameliorate the conditions. Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) is receiving on a daily basis several reports and on-ground testimonials about Iraqi people facing systematic violations of their fundamental rights, and more recently the right to access clean water.

Demonstrators gather in Basrah to protest against the government of Iraq.

GICJ keep witnessing and denouncing the constant suffering of Iraqi people that need to be saved due to the degrading environment they live in since the US-led invasion of 2003. Our reports have denounced the multiple underlying reasons that have been pushing people to protest namely the economic, environmental degradations, the political corruption, lack of basic services such as providing the minimum sanitation standards, enough electricity, healthcare services adding to that the repetitive clashes of violence within the country.

We urge the international community to pressure the government of Iraq to prioritize the water crisis. The urgency to deal with water shortages primes over other issues considering it is a question of death and life and has a huge short and long-term impact on several aspects. The problem of this shortage is in fact due to the high water salinity, hence the collective poisoning. The water pollution has led to shutting down purification systems and it is not only killing the people but also the fish. Furthermore, it is impacting agriculture which is the second largest economic sector in Iraq. In other words, dealing with this issue is fundamental as the country could never move forward if the population is unhealthy or dying.

A dirty river in Basrah.

These consequences have and will further the food and water shortages as well as pushing some animal species to leave the infected areas which according to the Basra Health Department (BSH) several water areas are dangerous to humans and have caused the hospitalization of more than17,000 people. Actually, the BSH has attempted to remedy to this crisis by distributing water, however, it only aggravated the situation and poisoned more people which resulted in 4000 unacceptable deaths.

Notwithstanding the gravity of poisoned water, we condemn the failure of the government to respect the fundamental right of the freedom of expression since protestors were faced with dangerous conditions that ended up with many casualties, wounded or arrests of several people. It is to a certain degree understandable to see that some protests were particularly violent since the environmental pollution is believed to be a consequence of smoke and gas emissions emitted by foreign oil companies.

Dead fish remain at the bank of a river - pollution can be seen in the distance.

Angry at the obvious lack of governmental actions, the people of Iraq are desperately calling upon the international help to rapidly overcome the problem of overcrowded hospitals, lack of medicine and the shortages of water in the form of peaceful campaigns. We recognize #SaveBasra to collect funds to buy mineral water and the campaign “Qatra to Basra” (“A drop to Basra”).

Humanitarian initiative and the courage to develop such campaigns is encouraging and appreciating as it adds pressure on the government, however, it is not enough considering the aggravating situation. The crisis requires the development of strategic policies, comprehensive actions, and reforms in order to find long-lasting solutions to grave issues that should never have happened in the first place.

A family gathers un-sanitary water.

GICJ believes that the concerns expressed in these campaigns must urgently be tackled and vehemently requests the relevant bodies to help Iraqi people meet the basic need of accessing clean water since it is a question of survival.

GICJ recalls that it is also a question of economic survival considering the importance of the agricultural sector and the need to preserve the health of the population since a healthy labor force is essential to achieve sustainable development. Finally, it reminds that it is a question of environmental survival requiring the attention and intervention of everyone since pollution in one country spreads to other ones.

GICJ urges the international community to exert pressure on the government of Iraq to keep their promises and take the responsibility to help their own people. Actually, after a period of silence and following some violent protests, the government has opened investigations and the Prime Minister Haider al-Abidi promised to tackle citizens’ requests, however, no action was taken despite the government’s supposed ability to handle the expenditures.

GICJ believes that the government of Iraq is in clear violation of its own constitution namely Article (15) that ensures the right to life, Article (31): the right to health and Article (33): the right to live in a healthy environment and the responsibility of the state to protect and preserve the environment and the biological diversity.

GICJ urges the international community to act in any possible way to oblige the government of Iraq to cease any activity that is harming the life of its citizens, namely those conducted by oil companies that need to either stop their operations or take serious measures to eliminate the pollution they are causing.

GICJ calls upon the international community to remind the government of Iraq of its duty to fight corruption in all its forms including transparency in the use of funds meant to elevate the quality of life of its citizens. GICJ recalls the government of Iraq that it is a state party of the United Nations Convention Against Corruption and thus is entitled to respect every line in it.

GICJ calls upon the international community to pressure Iran to immediately stop blocking the flows of water shared by both countries via Shatt- al-Arab River, to stop dumping waste in the Iraqi territory and that to take the responsibility and compensate for the damage it has caused in Iraq.

To conclude, Geneva International Centre for Justice (GICJ) believes that the international community’s ignorance and lack of action over the past 15 years towards the imposed sectarian system by the occupying authority is the root cause of the problems in Iraq. In this regard and as widely revendicated by the Iraqi, a permanent solution is only possible if the sectarian system is terminated.

ترجمة موجزة للنص بالعربية: هنا

GICJ articles on Iraq:

GICJ reiterates warnings of any violation against demonstrators in Iraq GICJ warns Iraqi authorities from violence against demonstrators The 2003 War Against Iraq - 15 Years of Denial 27 Years, Waiting Accountability for the Victims Proposals to Legalize Child Marriage in Iraq International Crimes and Accountability in Iraq: At Any Cost?

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