By Amnesty International. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Protest death toll surges as security forces resume brutal repression

Chilling eyewitness testimonies and verified video analysis by Amnesty International confirm that security forces have resumed their campaign of deadly violence against largely peaceful protesters in Baghdad and cities in southern Iraq, the organization has warned.

The crackdown on renewed protests from 20-22 January saw at least 10 people killed in Baghdad, Basra, Karbala and Diyala, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, while activists in Basra reported two additional deaths yesterday. Scores have been injured and arrested, with some subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in custody.

The organization’s Crisis Evidence Lab verified videos from several flashpoints in recent days, confirming live ammunition is once again being used against unarmed protesters, and the first use of deadly military-grade tear gas grenades observed since November.

More here.

(Source: Amnesty International)

Daring to kill and an absent justice: Report documents Iraqi security violations against protesters

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor urged the Iraqi authorities to open a comprehensive investigation into all the killings, kidnappings and torture Iraq has witnessed since the protests broke out last October 1 and to ensure it is independent, and to release all detained protesters charged with participating in protests unless they are charged or convicted in line with Iraqi law.

The Geneva-based group said in a report issued on December 19, 2019 that the protests in Iraq were peaceful and seemed at their outbreak to be spontaneous without any interference or invitation from any political or religious party, and the slogans and chants of protesters in the streets continued to express their demands at popular gatherings, despite the excessive force and resorting to repressive security measures by the armed militias of the Iraqi government.

The report, titled “The Iraqi movement: Daring to Kill and An Absent Justice,” highlighted the most important violations that Iraqi protesters are still subjected to, according to testimonies collected and documented by victims of these attacks, in addition to the reasons that led Iraqis to take to the streets to protest against the tragic conditions experienced by the country like the widespread corruption, the lack of services, and the widespread poverty.

Tariq Iliwa, a researcher at Euro-Med Monitor, said: “Although the Iraqi government does not recognize the legality of the popular movement in Baghdad and the rest of the provinces, from a legal point of view, the Iraqi Constitution of 2005 emphasized the importance of respecting the right to peaceful protest and freedom of opinion and expression, as International law also affirmed these rights in many international covenants and treaties.”

Iliwa added that government forces and armed militias have carried out forcible kidnappings and disappearances to intimidate protesters, with the aim of reducing the intensity of the protests until they stop.

According to the 15-page report, Iraqi government forces and armed militias have adopted, since the outbreak of the protests, a number of repressive and brutal methods against protesters, killing hundreds, assassinating dozens of activists, arresting and kidnapping thousands of protesters, and closing a number of institutions and press offices.

The report documented testimonies of detainees, some of whom were released, while others died as a result of torture by security forces or armed militias, including activist Hassan al-Husayni al-Husayni, who was kidnapped on November 25 by security forces wearing civilian clothes while he was at one of the protests. He was found alive in Ibrahimiya area eight hours after his abduction, with signs of torture on his body.

According to testimonies collected by Euro-Med Monitor, hundreds of detainees were tortured in various ways, such as beatings, use of electric sticks, hanging and other cruel and degrading means.

The report provided statistics on the protests that took place in Iraqi cities, according to the documentation of Euro-Med Monitor’s team and the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Iraq from October 1 to December 15.

Euro-Med Monitor called on the Iraqi authorities, in line with their international commitments, to respect human rights by taking all executive, legislative and judicial procedures to make sure Iraqis can enjoy their right to peaceful protest and freedom of opinion and expression.

Euro-Med Monitor stressed that security forces should commit to the basic principles of the United Nations on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials.

Euro-Med Monitor recommended that it is necessary to work to prosecute all leaders and those responsible for violations committed against protesters, calling on authorities to respect the right of protesters to peaceful assembly as long since it is a constitutional right affirmed by the Iraqi Constitution, and to refrain from using force against them. Those who are involved in such violations often prompt criminal sanctions against them internally or internationally.

Euro-Med Monitor called on Iraqi authorities to respond to the demands of the protesters by adopting a set of legal, economic and social reforms. The group concluded by urging the legislative authority to enact a law regulating the right to protest and peaceful assembly in a manner that guarantees lifting all restrictions on rights guaranteed by International Humanitarian Law.

Click here to read the full report.

By Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A group of armed men wearing black uniforms stormed into my house in Baghdad and abducted me,” Iraqi blogger Shojaa Fares al-Khafaji told me a few days after his early-morning kidnapping by an Iraqi militia in October.

“They took me to a remote location overlooking the Tigris River and questioned me about my work, my family, and even my car. … They knew I have a blog and I am certain that was the main reason for my abduction.”

Khafaji’s captors ultimately released him, but urged him to keep his mouth shut. He has chosen to live up to his first name—which is Arabic for “brave”—and continue writing his blog in the face of government repression.

But his ordeal was not an unusual one for an Iraqi journalist, and most are not as determined to risk their lives to continue reporting.

Click here to read the full story.

By Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A group of armed men wearing black uniforms stormed into my house in Baghdad and abducted me,” Iraqi blogger Shojaa Fares al-Khafaji told me a few days after his early-morning kidnapping by an Iraqi militia in October.

“They took me to a remote location overlooking the Tigris River and questioned me about my work, my family, and even my car. … They knew I have a blog and I am certain that was the main reason for my abduction.”

Khafaji’s captors ultimately released him, but urged him to keep his mouth shut. He has chosen to live up to his first name—which is Arabic for “brave”—and continue writing his blog in the face of government repression.

But his ordeal was not an unusual one for an Iraqi journalist, and most are not as determined to risk their lives to continue reporting.

Click here to read the full story.

By Ignacio Miguel Delgado Culebras, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A group of armed men wearing black uniforms stormed into my house in Baghdad and abducted me,” Iraqi blogger Shojaa Fares al-Khafaji told me a few days after his early-morning kidnapping by an Iraqi militia in October.

“They took me to a remote location overlooking the Tigris River and questioned me about my work, my family, and even my car. … They knew I have a blog and I am certain that was the main reason for my abduction.”

Khafaji’s captors ultimately released him, but urged him to keep his mouth shut. He has chosen to live up to his first name—which is Arabic for “brave”—and continue writing his blog in the face of government repression.

But his ordeal was not an unusual one for an Iraqi journalist, and most are not as determined to risk their lives to continue reporting.

Click here to read the full story.

As protests in Iraq enter their third month, the numbers of arrests, abductions, and killings of protesters continue to rise, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

But instead of protecting the demonstrators mostly peacefully protesting on Iraq’s streets, some security forces are the ones attacking and killing them.

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi had promised in a letter to Human Rights Watch that security forces would no longer use live ammunition against protesters, before announcing his own resignation on November 29.

But killings and abductions of protesters have continued.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

As protests in Iraq enter their third month, the numbers of arrests, abductions, and killings of protesters continue to rise, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

But instead of protecting the demonstrators mostly peacefully protesting on Iraq’s streets, some security forces are the ones attacking and killing them.

Prime Minister Adil Abd Al-Mahdi had promised in a letter to Human Rights Watch that security forces would no longer use live ammunition against protesters, before announcing his own resignation on November 29.

But killings and abductions of protesters have continued.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

By Mustafa Saadoun for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Iraq clamps down on media and broadcast networks covering protests

For the first time, the Iraqi National Communications and Media Commission shut down or gave warnings to 17 media institutions for covering the protests in Iraq.

The offices of Al-Arabiya, Al-Hadath, Dijlah TV, Al-Rasheed TV, NRT, Al-Sharqiya TV, Al-Fallujah TV, Houna Baghdad and Al-Hurra were closed, while Al-Sumariya, Asia Network Television, Rudaw Media Network, Sky News Arabia and Ur Television were warned to change how they cover the demonstrations.

Click here to read the full story.

Euro-Med Monitor launches advocacy campaign to stop the bloodshed against peaceful protesters in Iraq

The Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor has sent letters to the European Union and the French and German governments, urging them to exert pressure on the Iraqi government to stop the use of lethal force against ongoing popular protests, and to immediately stop the use of violence against peaceful protestors.

The Geneva-based organization said in a statement that it had sent letters to Federica Mogherini, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, French Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, and German Foreign Minister Haikou Massu, briefing them on the bloody security campaigns against protesters calling for the overthrow of the government of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi for failing to tackle corruption and solve the issues of power outages and unemployment in Iraq.

The Euro-Med expressed its grave concern over the ongoing violence and repression by Iraqi authorities which was made possible by the agreements signed between the Iraqi government and the European Union against popular protests over the past two months.

In its letter to the Iraqi government, the Euro-Med called for an immediate and serious investigation into the killings by security forces, calling for their withdrawal from areas of contact with protesters, and for ensuring that the perpetrators are brought to justice. The organization called for the release of detainees detained at the protests, compensation for all victims of violations for the illegal use of force by security forces and adopting effective steps to confirm the Iraqi government’s commitment to freedom of opinion and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed by international and domestic laws.

Since the protests erupted on October 1, the Euro-Med has documented the deaths of more than 363 protesters by security forces and snipes, as well as the injury of more than 15,000 others for expressing their opinions, as guaranteed by the Iraqi Constitution and international agreements to protect the right to freedom of peaceful opinion and assembly.

The Euro-Med said its teams documented horrific details of killings and abductions of unarmed demonstrators, journalists, human rights activists and observers, and monitored a series of security campaigns organized by Iraqi police, security forces and military formations against demonstrations, especially in the provinces of Southern Iraq. The organization monitored the closure of several media outlets, most recently on November 24, as the Iraqi government issued a decision to close the offices of 8 television channels, and 4 other media outlets for 3 months for allegedly violating “the codes of professional conduct.”

In a letter to the European Union, the Euro-Med said the French government continues to assist Iraqi internal security forces by providing them with military support and training, including weapons used to deal with peaceful demonstrations. The Geneva-based group noted that Germany too extended in September the training of the German mission (Bundeswehr) of the Iraqi local troops for a year.

The organization added in its letter to the German Foreign Minister, “We find it disturbing that the member states of the European Union continue to help the Iraqi authorities and have not yet considered to benefit from this assistance at least to ensure respect for human rights.”

The Euro-Med pointed out that between 2014 and 2018, Iraq was the main country buying arms from the Czech Republic while during the same period, France provided 8.6% of arms imports to the Middle East, including Iraq.

The Euro-Med stated that although the EU imposed an embargo on arms exports to Iraq in 2003, in 2004 it adopted the Common Position 2004/553/CFSP, which authorized the sale, supply, transfer, or export of weapons and related materials required by the newly established Government of Iraq.

In its letter to the French Foreign Minister, the Euro-Med said that since the outbreak of the Iraqi protests, Paris has not reduced its military assistance nor taken necessary punitive measures against the Iraqi authorities to curb its use of violence against peaceful demonstrators, noting that this unfortunate slowdown could make France complicit in such tragic events taking place in Iraq.

The Euro-Med called on the EU to consider re-imposing the arms embargo, even partially, to ensure that military training and arms exports from EU member states are not used to commit new violations against peaceful protests.

The organization stressed the need for the European Union to consider the use of its assistance to Iraq in order to ensure that the government of Abdul-Mahdi complies with its responsibilities towards non-violent protests and to stop use of force against demonstrators.

The Euro-Med called on the European Union to pressure the Iraqi government to show adequate respect for human rights in Iraq, in addition to pledging not to use EU aid and military supplies to suppress peaceful protests.

The Euro-Med concluded by calling on the French government to suspend the training of personnel and other forms of assistance of the Iraqi government until it abides by its responsibilities towards non-violent protests, stop all forms of use of force against them, and open immediate and serious investigations into the brutal use of violence against them in the last two months and pledge to hold perpetrators accountable in accordance with Iraqi and international laws.

(Source: Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor)