Anger, grief sweep Iraq's Mosul as ferry disaster toll hits 100

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Relatives of victims of a ferry that sank in the Tigris river, cry outside the morgue in Mosul. (Reuters)
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A man attaches a picture of a missing child on a door, after a ferry sank in the Tigris river, outside a morgue in Mosul. (Reuters)
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Relatives of victims of a ferry that sank in the Tigris river, cry outside the morgue in Mosul. (Reuters)
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Men leave a morgue after collecting the body of their relative, victim of a ferry that sank in the Tigris river, in Mosul. (Reuters)
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Mourners bury one of the victims who died after an overloaded ferry sank in Tigris river near Mosul, during his funeral at Mosul cemetery, Iraq March 22, 2019. (Reuters)
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People pray near the sunken ferry site in Mosul. (AP)
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Iraqi rescuers search for victims on the site where an overloaded ferry sank in the Tigris river near Mosul, Iraq March 22, 2019. (Reuters)
Updated 22 March 2019

Anger, grief sweep Iraq's Mosul as ferry disaster toll hits 100

  • Residents of Iraq's second city, scarred by years of extremist rule, demanded justice as Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi decreed three days of national mourning following Thursday's accident
  • Mosulites had resumed the annual festivities this year for the first time since Iraqi forces ousted Daesh following years of brutal extremist rule

MOSUL: The capsizing of a Tigris river ferry packed with families celebrating Kurdish New Year in Mosul left at least 100 people dead, mostly women and children, the Iraqi interior ministry said on Friday, as grief and anger swept the city.
Residents of Iraq's second city, scarred by years of extremist rule, demanded justice as Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi decreed three days of national mourning following Thursday's accident.
Mosulites had resumed the annual festivities this year for the first time since Iraqi forces ousted Daesh following years of brutal extremist rule.
But the celebrations turned to tragedy when the overcrowded vessel ran into trouble as it headed to a popular picnic site across the river Tigris.
Mosul security officials blamed the accident on high water levels and overcrowding on the boat.
Hundreds of relatives of victims and residents gathered Friday at the scene of the accident, where prayers were held for the dead.




Mourners bury one of the victims who died after an overloaded ferry sank in Tigris river near Mosul, during his funeral at Mosul cemetery, Iraq March 22, 2019. (Reuters)


Many said the disaster could have been avoided, and chanted "corruption is killing us!"
"We want those responsible to be brought to justice," said Mohammed Adel, 27, whose father was among those who died.
He accused officials of failing to enforce safety standards.
Abu Salem, who lost his wife and two children in the accident which also coincided with mother's day in Iraq, pinned blame for the tragedy on profit motives and the corruption that is endemic in Iraq.
The managers of the picnic site were "criminals... I want them to pay up and I won't leave here until they do", the 50-year Iraqi said.




A man attaches a picture of a missing child on a door, after a ferry sank in the Tigris river, outside a morgue in Mosul. (Reuters)


Reflecting the popular mood, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, spiritual leader of Iraq's Shiite Mulim majority, in his Friday sermon accused "the authorities in charge of supervision of not doing their job".
Transparency International ranks Iraq in 12th place in its list of the world's most corrupt countries.
Video footage from cameras at the picnic site, posted online, showed a severely overcrowded vessel beginning to list as water comes aboard.
As it capsizes completely, it traps dozens of people under its hull.
Authorities had warned people to be cautious after several days of heavy rains led to water being released through the Mosul dam, causing the river to rise.
Videos showed a fast-flowing, bloated river and dozens of people floating in the water or trying to swim around the partly submerged boat.
Abdel Mahdi said the justice system "must do its job and the investigation must produce results on the reasons for this shipwreck".

Scores of angry protesters swarmed President Barham Salih and Nineveh province governor Nawfal Hammadi Al-Sultan on Friday, forcing them to leave the site of the river ferry accident. 
While war and extremist attacks have claimed hundreds of thousands of lives in Iraq in recent years, such accidents are relatively rare.
But corruption and the dismal state of public services in Iraq were triggers for widespread protests last year.
Daesh turned Mosul into its de facto capital after sweeping across much of the country's north in 2014.
The city spent three years under the group's iron-fisted rule until it was recaptured by Iraqi troops backed by a US-led coalition in 2017.
Survivors of Thursday's disaster were treated in hospitals heavily damaged by the months-long military campaign against the extremists.
A mortuary was receiving bodies wrapped in white shrouds, many bearing the names of women.
A forensics official said many had yet to be identified.
Iraq's justice ministry said it had ordered the arrest of nine ferry company officials and banned the owners of the vessel and the picnic site from leaving the country.
Officials implicated in various scandals have fled Iraq in recent years.


Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.