Iraq: Continuing arrests of Basra protesters and four more demonstrators reported killed
Update: Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that on 18 September 2018, 13 detained protesters were released including Murtaza Safi and Waleed Al-Ansari.
Reports received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that random arrests continue in September in Basra of dozens of demonstrators who participated in the protests that broke out across Iraq in the past few months. In addition, GCHR received reports about four peaceful demonstrators who lost their lives two months ago in the city of Samawah, when dozens were wounded after demonstrations involving hundreds of residents of the city.
The security forces of the Ministry of the Interior, led by the “Soqour” Intelligence Cell, carried out a series of arbitrary arrests of a large number of peaceful demonstrators. On 13 September 2018, independent civil society activist Murtaza Safi was arrested and in the early morning of 15 September 2018, independent civil society activist Waleed Al-Ansari was arrested from his home.
Reliable reports confirm that the number of detainees reached 25 demonstrators arrested after raids on their homes that took place at night or in the early morning, while others were detained during the demonstrations.
Earlier this year, in the city of Samawah, the largest city in the governorate of Muthanna, on 15 July 2018, four young men were killed. One of the military vehicles (Hammer) trampled the demonstrator Ali Qasim, while Ahmad Radi, Waleed Hameed, and Hussain Dakhil were shot dead by gunmen belonging to one of the political movements after a large demonstration gathered in front of the building they occupied. It was reported that the number of wounded demonstrators exceeded 70 people. The demonstrators demanded the dismissal of the governor and the directors of the public service departments, that employment opportunities be provided for young people, and proper accounting of corruption practises.
The protests erupted in the Governorate of Basra on 14 July 2018 and moved to other Iraqi cities, demanding that the government provide jobs and quality public services to citizens in addition to eliminating rampant corruption. They have also added demands to stop killing and arresting activists and protestors. In the first two weeks of protests, over a dozen protestors were killed, hundreds injured and over 750 arrested. See: https://www.gc4hr.org/news/view/1912
GCHR condemns, in the strongest terms, the attacks by the security forces against demonstrators, which has led to the death of protestors. Once again GCHR expresses its deep concern at the precarious situation of peaceful protestors whose right to freedom of assembly is being violated, and for all human rights defenders in Iraq, including lawyers, journalists and bloggers who continue their work bravely in the face of danger.
GCHR calls on the authorities in Iraq to:
- Conduct an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the death of activists and protestors, with the aim of publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
- Protect the right to peaceful demonstration of all citizens and throughout the country;
- Immediately and unconditionally release all peaceful demonstrators and civil society activists, including Safi Dagher and Waleed Al-Ansari;
- Immediately stop threatening journalists and bloggers covering the demonstrations; and
- Ensure that all human rights defenders in Iraq and those who do their legitimate work in defense of human rights are able to work without facing restrictions, including judicial harassment.