Iraq: Protect the right to peaceful demonstration, release all detained demonstrators and reopen access to the Internet / Assassination of human rights lawyer Jabbar Mohammed Al-Karm in Basra

24.07.18

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) has received reliable reports confirming that Iraqi authorities have used disproportionate force against peaceful demonstrators resulting in at least 13 deaths, 269 injuries and 757 detentions. In many cities across Iraq, the authorities used water cannons, tear gas and on several occasions live ammunition to disperse peaceful demonstrations. In Basra, the human rights lawyer Jabbar Mohammed Al-Karm (pictured above) was assassinated by gunmen after offering to defend the detainees.

During a peaceful demonstration on 20 July 2018 in Liberation Square in central Baghdad, a small group of demonstrators tried to move towards the Green Zone where the government headquarters are located. Riot police used tear gas canisters in such a way as to cause numerous head injuries to the small group and other demonstrators. They also used water cannnons to disperse the demonstration.

Demonstrations continue in the Governorates of Basra, Karbala, Najaf, Muthanna, Maysan, Qadisiyyah, Thi Qar, and Babil,

The GCHR said that, according to information received, some of the detainees were only released on condition that they sign a pledge not to demonstrate again. Journalists and bloggers also received threats because of their professional coverage of the demonstrations.

The GCHR condemns the excessive use of force by the authorities in dispersing the peaceful demonstrations taking place in the country and the violations of the right to free expression and assembly.

Internet Shut Down.

Reliable reports also confirmed that the Iraqi government has shut down the Internet across the country’s central and southern regions, including the capital Baghdad on many occasions since 14 July 2018, in an attempt to stop the spread of updated news related to ongoing protests. Information received by the GCHR also confirmed that in many areas where the Internet is accessible social medial networks are still blocked.

Assassination of human rights lawyer Jabbar Mohammed Al-Karm.

On July 23, 2018, gunmen assassinated human rights lawyer Jabbar Mohammed Al-Karm. The killing took place near the Al Hadi police station, shortly after Al Karm had left the Palace of Justice. The armed men, who were driving a Toyota Land Cruiser, intercepted his car and shot him 15 times. Jabbar Al-Karm was known to be defending many of the demonstrators detained in Basra since the protests began on July 08, 2018.

The GCHR condemns, in the strongest terms, the killing of Jabbar Mohammed Al-Karm and expresses its deep concern for the situation of all human rights defenders in Iraq, including lawyers, journalists and bloggers who are bravely continuing their work in the face of extreme danger.

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights calls on the authorities in Iraq:

  1. To institute an independent, impartial and thorough investigation forthwith into the assassination of human rights lawyer Jabbar Mohammed al-Karm, to disseminate the results and bring those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  2. To protect the right to peaceful demonstration of all, throughout the country;
  3. To immediately and unconditionally release all detained peaceful demonstrators;
  4. To immediately cease threats against journalists and bloggers covering the demonstrations;
  5. To reinstitute Internet services and blocked social networking sites;
  6. To ensure that all human rights defenders in Iraq are able to work without facing restrictions, threats and judicial harassment.