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

Iraq to launch investigations against killing of protesters

The new Iraqi government has begun procedures to reinvestigate the violent acts during the popular protests that broke out in October and killed more than 700 people and injured over 25,000.

The decision was greatly welcomed at home and in the international arena.

The United Nations Security Council called for “transparency during the investigation.”

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Iraq: UN details ordeal of abducted protesters, welcomes Government’s promise to investigate and compensate

A United Nations report published today on the abduction of protesters in Iraq since last October details their ordeals from the time of abduction through interrogation to acts of torture.

In its fourth report on the protests, the UN Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) documented cases involving 123 people who disappeared between 1 October 2019 and 21 March 2020. Of these, 98 people were located, but 25 remain missing or are in an unknown status.

Since the protests erupted at the start of October, the UN has verified 490 deaths of activists and 7,783 injured. Most of the protesters are young and unemployed, and have been demanding that their economic and social rights be respected. The demonstrations have continued even after the outbreak of COVID-19 in the country.

The report found that the “absence of accountability for these acts continues to contribute to the pervasive environment of impunity in relation to demonstration-linked reports of violations and abuses”.

“The establishment of a high-level fact-finding committee by the new Government to investigate casualties and related harm is a crucial step toward justice and accountability,” said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq. “The Government’s commitment to provide medical treatment for injured demonstrators and compensation to the families of victims is encouraging.”

The report notes that the abductions and disappearances occurred amid numerous incidents involving additional violations and abuses targeting activists and protesters, including deliberate killings, shooting and knife attacks, threats and intimidation, and excessive and unlawful use of force at demonstration sites.

None of those interviewed knew the identity of those responsible for their abduction, although most speculated the involvement of ‘militia’. They added that they did not believe official Iraqi Security Forces were directly responsible, nor that ordinary criminal gangs were to blame.

The report does not speculate on who might be behind the abductions, points to “the involvement of armed actors with substantial levels of organisation and access to resources”.

The report provides concrete recommendations to the Government of Iraq, including:

  • Make immediate efforts to comply with its obligations under international law, including by making all efforts to locate those demonstrators and activists who remain missing.
  • Take immediate action to protect protesters and activists from abduction.
  • Take immediate action to investigate all alleged cases of abduction, disappearance and torture/ill-treatment, and to prosecute those responsible.
  • Publicly identify the so-called unidentified force, armed group or ‘militia’, behind the abductions.

The report in English and Arabic:

English: https://bit.ly/2A7oe75

Arabic: https://bit.ly/3ecuHwk

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

The Iraqi government and parliament should pass legislation to address key human rights shortcomings in Iraq’s legal system and take measures to minimize the risks Covid-19 poses to people in prison, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.

With the formation of Iraq’s government on May 7, 2020, parliament can now focus on legislative reform.

Human Rights Watch has identified four key areas to advance human rights in Iraq, around which previous governments and parliaments have drafted and reviewed legislative proposals but did not pass them.

There are many areas for which legislative reform is needed to bring Iraqi law in line with international standards, but the bills already offered address legal representation, torture, enforced disappearance, and domestic violence.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

The Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) has contributed CAD 20 million ($15 million) in support of UNFPA’s humanitarian response focusing on life-saving assistance aimed at alleviating the suffering of women and girls across Iraq.

The three-year contribution will support UNFPA works in providing emergency obstetric care, and sexual and reproductive health services, in ensuring protection from and responding to gender-based violence and in providing health services, supplies and medication, dignity and reproductive health kits to women and girls affected by the crisis in Iraq.

Dr Oluremi Sogunro, UNFPA Representative to Iraq, thanked DFAT for their trust, saying:

“We are grateful for Canada’s generosity. The needs of women and adolescent girls, especially in displacement camps, remain acute. With the new funding from Canada, UNFPA will expand its interventions aiming at meeting the reproductive health needs of women and girls as well as preventing and responding to sexual and gender-based violence.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development has been a steady partner to UNFPA humanitarian intervention since 2015. With the current contribution, the total amount of CAD 54.9 million dedicated to UNFPA’s humanitarian initiatives in the field.

(Source: UN)

By John Lee.

Iraqi authorities ramped up violent tactics to quash ongoing protests across Baghdad and southern Iraq between January 25 and 27, 2020, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Friday.

Security forces set fire to protesters’ tents, fired live ammunition, and detained protesters in Baghdad, Basra, and Nasriya.

Human Rights Watch was unable to determine the extent of casualties or numbers detained.

More here.

(Source: HRW)

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.