Iraq’s top court has said the country’s constitution does not allow for the secession of any part of the country from the state.
In a statement on Monday, Iyas al-Samouk, Supreme Federal Court spokesperson, said the national charter expressly calls for the preservation of Iraq’s unity and territorial integrity.
The court is responsible for settling disputes between the central government in Baghdad and the country’s regions and provinces, including northern Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region.
The court’s rulings are final and cannot be contested by higher judicial authorities.
On September 25, people in the semi-autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq and a number of disputed areas under the control of the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG) voted in a controversial referendum that found overwhelming support for secession.
The referendum, which was declared illegal by the federal government in Baghdad and criticised by neighbouring countries, resulted in 92 percent of people voting in favour of splitting from Iraq.
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The poll was heavily criticised at the time by most regional and international actors, with many warning that it would distract from Iraq’s ongoing fight against terrorism and further destabilise the region.
Less than a month later, Kurds found themselves without about 40 percent of the territory they previously held as they withdrew from disputed areas.
In a rapid advance, Iraqi forces took full control of Kirkuk, which Kurdish Peshmerga fighters had seized after the Iraqi army fled a major offensive by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) group in 2014.
Following Monday’s verdict, Haider al-Abadi called on all parties to “totally abide by the constitution and all Federal Court decisions”.
“We call on the region to clearly state its commitment to non-separation or independence [of any province or sub-region] from Iraq,” a statement from the Iraqi prime minister’s office said.