ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq's Joint Operations Command (JOC), which coordinates the nation's many military and police forces, announced on Saturday the formation of an investigative committee to probe violence committed by security forces during a recent wave of nationwide protests that has reportedly led to the deaths of at least 100 and thousands more injured.
The committee was formed under the directive of Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces.
According to a JOC statement, the body will be headed Iraq's Minister of Planning and will include the Ministers of Justice, Health, Interior, and Defense, plus representatives from the Supreme Judicial Council, lawmakers, members of the Commission on Human Rights, and various officials from security and intelligence services.
The JOC set just seven days for the committee to conclude its work.
Such investigations in Iraq, especially regarding allegations made against security forces, all too often result in little more than vague characterizations of the findings by officials and no evidence at all presented to the public.
Massive demonstrations began in Baghdad on Oct. 1 and quickly spread to several other cities. From the start, the government has been scrambling to gain control of the situation and deal with international condemnation for the violence used by security forces against demonstrators. In addition to the violence, many media offices were attacked and political party offices burned by unidentified individuals or groups.
Baghdad's move to form an investigative committee comes after the top Shia cleric in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who blamed the Iraqi government for the killing of dozens of protesters in a sermon on Friday and gave it two weeks to uncover the "outlawed elements" who fired on them.
The prime minister said in a statement that the committee was formed "in response to the speech of the supreme religious authority... and to complement the ongoing investigations."
Protesters have been demanding increased job opportunities, improved public services, and an end to a low general standard of living and rampant institutional corruption.
At an extraordinary session on Oct. 5 called by Abdul Mahdi, the Council of Ministers issued its first package of "important decisions," reforms intended to address demonstrators' grievances.
Previous announcements of anti-corruption measures and reforms by Abdul Mahdi's predecessors, though sometimes temporarily placating protesters, have fallen far short of effective implementation or meaningful change.
On Friday, the Supreme Council for Combating Corruption said it had referred the files of nine senior Iraqi officials and roughly 400 others to judicial authorities.
Editing by John J. Catherine