Iraq: Human rights defender Reda Al-Shaibani continues to be targeted for exposing corruption
In the early hours of the morning of 24 June 2019, the car of human rights defender Reda Al-Shaibani, which was parked next to the window of his house, was set on fire. The fire spread to his house, located in the town of Diwaniyah in Iraq, but Al-Shaibani extinguished the fire with the help of his neighbours before it caused too much damage.
Al-Shaibani said, "The incident was deliberately caused by somebody and was preceded by overt and public threats from those about whom I published documents showing corruption; and for whom I called on the Integrity Commission to open investigations about." He added by saying, "The incident is linked to publications and topics published on my Facebook account, including documents and files of corruption and suspicious transactions for the purchase of machinery and equipment at ten times their real price." He explained that, "The fuel tank cap was thrown close to the car on the ground, which confirms that it was an act of deliberate intent."
Al-Shaibani had been attacked previously. On 01 April 2018, as he was heading home from work, three unidentified persons attacked him in front of the Municipality Directorate of Diwaniyah, and beat him on the head and body with sticks, resulting in various injuries that required treatment at the hospital. When he sued the assailants, the case was lodged against unknown persons despite the presence of videotaped recordings showing their faces.
Al-Shaibani is 41 years old and has been working as a civil society activist since 2013, focusing on addressing corruption issues in his city through his writings and statements.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) condemns, in the strongest terms, the burning of Al-Shaibani’s car, which could have led to serious injury, as well as the continued targeting and threats against him. GCHR expresses deep concern about the situation of all human rights defenders in Iraq, including lawyers, journalists and bloggers who continue their work bravely in the face of grave danger.
The Gulf Centre for Human Rights calls on the authorities in Iraq to:
- Carry out a thorough investigation into the incidents of the burning of the car of human rights defender Reda Al-Shaibani, as well as the previous attack and the nature of the threats directed against him, with a view to bringing those responsible immediately to justice;
- Immediately put a stop to threats against journalists, bloggers, or civil society activists, including Reda Al-Shaibani, who publish material online; and
- Ensure that all human rights defenders in Iraq are able to work without facing restrictions, threats and judicial harassment.
GCHR calls on the authorities in Iraq to fulfill their fundamental duty to uphold the rights enshrined in the Iraqi constitution, which stipulates in Article 38 the protection of public freedoms, including freedom of expression and freedom of demonstration. GCHR also calls upon them to maintain Iraq's international obligations as a signatory since 1971 to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which obliges the parties to respect the civil and political rights of individuals, including the right to life, freedom of religion, freedom of expression and assembly, electoral rights and procedural rights to fair trial.