Iraq: Killing and kidnapping of human rights activists, journalists and lawyers continues


Human rights defenders, journalists and lawyers have been kidnapped and killed in Iraq since the beginning of the month, reports the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR), which calls on the government to end the lawlessness. Most of them have been targeted by armed groups, but at least one activist was detained by government security forces.

On the evening of 10 March 2020, an unidentified armed group assassinated human rights defender Abdulqudus Qasim (picture 1), a theatre/television producer and actor, and his colleague, Karar Adel (picture 2), a human rights lawyer who worked at the Maysan Federal Appeal Court. The masked gunmen stopped the car in which they were traveling in the middle of Al-Amara city and instructed them to get out, then shot and killed them immediately.

Qasim, dedicated his Facebook page to show his unlimited support for the popular movement and he had told his colleagues that he expected to be killed by the outlaw militias. In a recent interview with him he said, “I am 37 years old, from the city of Al-Amara. I entered the world of theater after the Iraqi regime change in 2003. I am striving for change and fighting unawareness and superstition, and this is what I have worked on in many theatrical works."  Likewise, Adel dedicated his Facebook page to support popular protests. They have been advocates of non-violence, and have participated in protests since they began.

Their fellow protesters participated in their funerals, expressing their sorrow and determination to continue their protests until they achieve their goals. Former dictator Saddam Hussain had already executed Qasim’s father, and one of his colleagues described him as "the martyr and the son of the martyr."

On 09 March 2020, an unknown armed group kidnapped journalist Tawfiq Al-Tamimi (picture 3), who reports on the governorates for the official “Al-Sabah” newspaper, which is issued by the Iraqi media Commission. Masked gunmen intercepted the car in which he was traveling after he left his home in Baghdad's Ur neighborhood and took him by force to an unknown destination.

On 07 March 2020, Al-Tamimi, known for his moderation and professionalism, posted on his Facebook page a photo taken of him with his colleague, publisher and writer Mazen Latif, who was kidnapped on 31 January 2020 by a group of gunmen in civilian clothes riding in a shaded pick-up truck and taken to an unknown destination. He asked at the end of the post, "When are you coming back?"

On 02 March 2020, civil society activist Ali Sabah Al-Mousawi (picture 4), was arrested by government security forces while he was leaving Al-Tahrir Square and heading towards Abu Nawas Street. He is now being held in Al-Muthanna airport detention facility, where hundreds of peaceful demonstrators are being held in connection with their participation in the popular protests. Al-Mousawi has participated in Al-Tahrir Square protests since their inception.

For more information on recent human rights violations in Iraq, please see GCHR’s Third periodic report on violations during the ongoing popular demonstrations.

GCHR calls on the Iraqi authorities to:

  1. End the lawlessness in Iraq that has enabled armed militias to act with total impunity to murder and kidnap civil society activists, journalists, human rights defenders and lawyers;
  2. End the practice by security forces of arrested peaceful protesters and holding them without charge, and immediately release all those being held in violation of their right to freedom of assembly; and
  3. Uphold the rights to freedom of expression and assembly, and ensure that human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists can carry out their work freely and without fear.