Iraq: The government must protect the freedom to demonstrate throughout the country


The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Front Line Defenders, and PEN Center in Iraq condemn the use of excessive force, including live bullets, by Iraqi security forces against peaceful demonstrators who participated in protests in the capital Baghdad and the country's central and southern cities.

On 01 October 2019, peaceful demonstrations were held in Tahrir Square in central Baghdad as well as in the governorates of Basra, Maysan, Al-Muthanna, Al-Najaf, Karbala, Babylon, Diyala, Dhi Qar and Qadisiyah. Security forces in all of these areas have used tear gas as well as water cannons at times and live bullets at other times to disperse demonstrators. In Baghdad, Riot Police Forces used live ammunition to disperse demonstrators and chase them into secondary streets away from the protests. This resulted in the death of 23-year-old demonstrator Mortada Adel in the vicinity of Tahrir Square, in addition to dozens of wounded among the demonstrators in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities.

Reliable report from inside the country confirmed that the demonstrations continued into the next day, 02 October 2019, in Baghdad and the rest of the above-mentioned cities, where security forces confronted demonstrators with force. Two demonstrators in the city of Nasiriyah, the capital of Dhi Qar governorate, were killed and many others were injured. There were some injuries among the security forces as a result of stones being thrown by some reckless protestors. Black smoke was seen in Baghdad and other Iraqi cities as protesters burned tires.

In addition, dozens of demonstrators were arrested in various Iraqi cities, including the capital, Baghdad, without any judicial warrant. The Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi issued a curfew order in Baghdad starting at 05 am on 03 October 2019 until further notice.

Local sources confirmed that the government shut off internet access and has blocked access to the social media networks, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Instagram and other platforms.

 The Iraqi Observatory for Human Rights, the Iraqi Network for Social Media (INSM), the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), Front Line Defenders, and PEN Center in Iraq call on the Iraqi government to:

  1. Fulfill its international obligations in the field of human rights, in particular to respect the civil and human rights of all citizens of Iraq, including the protection of their right to peaceful demonstration throughout the country;
  2. Conduct independent, impartial, thorough and prompt investigations into the killings of demonstrators, including demonstrator Murtaza Adel, with a view to disseminating the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;
  3. Immediately and unconditionally release all peaceful protesters who have been detained;
  4. Respect and protect the right of all the citizens of Iraq to access the Internet and information which should be considered by authorities as the most basic human rights; and
  5.  Ensure that all human rights defenders in Iraq, who carry out their legitimate work in defense of human rights, are able to operate without restrictions, including judicial harassment.