Iraq: Killings, attempted killings, threats and harassment of several human rights defenders in Basra

28/08/2020
Urgent Appeal
ar en

IRQ 001 / 0820 / OBS 098
Killings /
Attempted killings /
Threats /
Harassment
Iraq
August 28, 2020

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a partnership of FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Iraq.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by reliable sources about recent killings, attempted killings, threats and harassment of several human rights defenders in Basra, South East Iraq.

According to the information received, on August 19, 2020, Ms. Riham Yaqoub, a doctor and prominent human rights defender who led women’s marches as part ofthe protest movement in Basra in 2018[1], was killed by two unidentified gunmen on a scooter while she was driving her car in the Basra city centre. At the time of the attack, three other passengers who were in the car were slightly injured from the shattered glass of the car windows. Ms. Yaqoub had been the target of a massive online hate campaign since 2018, and had received numerous threats prior to her killing. An investigation was opened by the police into this attack, but no information could be obtained as to whether perpetrators have been identified.

Similarly, on August 17, 2020, unidentified gunmen opened fire on a car carrying Ms. Lodya Remon Albarti, a human rights defender who led the 2018 feminist demonstration along with Ms. Riham Yaqoub, and Messrs. Fahd Al-Zubaidi and Abbas Subhi, two civil society activists who have been actively participating in the protest movement in Basra since October 2019[2]. As a result of this attack, Ms. Albarti was injured in the leg and Mr. Subhi in the chest. Both were transferred to Basra Teaching Hospital to receive medical care and were subsequently discharged in good health.

On August 14, 2020, Mr. Tahseen Oussamma, an activist who had also actively participated in the protest movement in Basra since October 2019, was killed by unknown attackers with a silenced weapon in Basra. An investigation was opened by the police into this attack, but no information could be obtained as to whether perpetrators have been identified.

In addition, in the last few weeks, numerous Iraqi activists have been receiving daily threats to their life and safety, mostly through text messages or publicly using social media networks.

The Observatory expresses its utmost concern over these attacks which are part of a series of targeted killings in recent weeks against leaders of the protest movement against corruption and in favour of basic rights and dignity for the Iraqi people. Although the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, promised on several occasions to take action to bring those responsible to justice[3], the Observatory notes that, for the time being, this has not been reflected in concrete terms.

In light of the generalised context of killings and acts of violence targeting human rights defenders, and the persisting climate of impunity over such violations, the Observatory calls on the Iraqi authorities to facilitate a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough international investigation into these events, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal and sanction them as provided by international law.

Actions requested:

Please write to the authorities of Iraq asking them to:

i. Facilitate a transparent, impartial, immediate and thorough international investigation into the above-mentioned series of killings and attempted killings, in order to identify all those responsible, bring them before an independent tribunal and sanction them as provided by international law;

ii. Guarantee the physical and psychological well-being of all human rights defenders in Iraq in all circumstances, and ensure they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without hindrance and fear of reprisals;

iii. Conform to all the provisions of the United Nations Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular its Articles 1 and 12;

iv. Ensure in all circumstances respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms - particularly the freedoms of assembly, expression and association - in accordance with international human rights standards and international instruments ratified by Iraq.

Addresses:

• President of the Republic of Iraq, Mr. Barham Salih, Twitter: @BarhamSalih
• Prime Minister, Mr. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Twitter: @MAKadhimi
• Minister of Interior, Mr. Othman Al-Ghanmi, Twitter: @AlghanmiOthman
• Defense Minister, Mr. Jumaa Inad, Twitter: @Jouma_Anad
• Minister of Foreign affairs, Mr. Fuad Hussein, Twitter: @Fuad_Hussein1
• Minister Plenipotentiary Mr. Abbas Kadhom Obaid Al-Fatlawi, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: iraq.unog@mofa.gov.iq
• Dr. Aqeel Al-MoussawiIraqi, Head of the High Commission for Human Rights, Email: info@Ihchr.iq

Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iraq in your respective countries.

***
Paris-Geneva, August 28, 2020

Kindly inform us of any action undertaken quoting the code of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (the Observatory) was created in 1997 by FIDH and the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT). The objective of this programme is to prevent or remedy situations of repression against human rights defenders. FIDH and OMCT are both members of ProtectDefenders.eu, the European Union Human Rights Defenders Mechanism implemented by international civil society.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
· E-mail: Appeals@fidh-omct.org
· Tel FIDH +33 (0) 1 43 55 25 18
· Tel and fax OMCT +41 (0) 22 809 49 39 / +41 22 809 49 29


[1]In 2018, a protest movement started in Basra against corruption and the lack of basic public services in the city.
[2]On October 1, 2019, a nationwide protest movement started, demanding the end of the political and financial corruption, as well as basic rights and dignity for the Iraqi people.
[3]See for example the Prime Minister’s statement during his visit to Ms. Riham Yaqoub’s family: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OVg5Vd_XvuA

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