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06BAGHDAD1719 2006-05-24 14:48:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy Baghdad
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1. (C) In an April 22 meeting with Poloffs and ROL
Coordinator, newly appointed Minister of Human Rights
Wijdan Mikhail Salim said she perceives her Ministry
has a role both in reducing human rights abuses and in
educating the Iraqi public about human rights more
generally. She explained that the ministry should
"monitor" human rights abuses and work to prevent
them, particularly abuses committed by government
institutions. She also said it was important to
establish a human rights public awareness campaign to
indoctrinate Iraqis into a culture where human rights
are understood and valued. Lastly, Salim stated that
she wanted the ministry to take an active role in
monitoring all proposed legislation for consistency
with international standards for human rights.

2. (C) PolCouns expressed support for these mission
goals and underlined the necessity of focusing on the
problems of extrajudicial killings, torture and the
judicial process within Iraq. When asked her opinion
of the development of the Human Rights Commission
(ref), Salim answered that she feared a weakening of
the Ministry if the Commission is set up. She
expressed concern that the Ministry and the Commission
might have overlapping missions. If established, she
opined, the Commission should be placed under the
Ministry structure. PolCouns and ROL Coordinator
emphasized the importance of an independent Commission
empowered to conduct formal investigations and
judicial hearings. They also urged that she work
closely with the UN team as ideas about the role of
the independent commission are further developed.

3. (C) Comment: Despite the same-day notification of
her nomination and swearing-in, Salim has thrown
herself into the work of the Ministry. After just one
day at the Ministry, Salim seems focused on the job
ahead of her. Her broad goals are well thought-out
for a brand new minister with limited exposure to the
field of human rights. Her hesitancy about the Human
Rights Commission is understandable given her newness
to the subject. We will have to see how she reacts to
the work being done by the UN and British Embassy
here; we will work with her to ensure buy-in to the
concept of a strong commission.

4. (C) Bionote: Salim is a long-standing contact of
the Embassy. Previously a member of the Transitional
National Assembly (TNA), she is a city planner by
training with a degree from Baghdad University. She
lives in Baghdad with her husband and three children.