On International Human Rights Day, a dangerous escalation against human rights defenders and activists in Iraq



Human rights defenders and activists were killed, kidnapped and shot at in Iraq on International Human Rights Day and the following day. On the night of 10 December 2019, poet and civil society activist Ali Al-Lami (photo 1), was kidnapped while he was returning to his sister’s house after participating in Al-Tahrir Square demonstrations. His body was found at 2am, dumped in Al-Sha`b area, north of Baghdad.

Al-Lami, a 49-year-old from the city of Kut, participated in demonstrations in Tahrir Square as a representative of his city, and has always called on his Facebook page for the demonstrations to remain peaceful.

Also that same day, in the capital, Baghdad, communications with peaceful demonstrator Ayoub Muhammad Al-Khazraji were cut off from the early morning hours, leading to concerns for his safety. He was broadcasting the events of the demonstrations, moment by moment, through his pages on social media.

On 11 December 2019, human rights defenders Salman Khairallah Al-Mansoori (photo 3) and Omar Khadum Al-A’mri (photo 4) were kidnapped around noon. Their last contact was with a female colleague at 11:30am, when they went to Al-Nawab Street in Al-Khadhimiya district to buy some tents for protesters in Al-Tahrir Square. Their phones were closed at 15:30 pm, as some reports stated that the security forces had arbitrarily arrested them without a judicial warrant.

Al-Mansoori is an environmental activist and Al-A’mri is a civilian activist, and both are members of the Iraqi Social Forum as part of the initiative of “Protectors of Tigris” which aims to protect the Tigris River from drought through various activities.

Also on the evening of 11 December 2019, in the Al-Shula area of ​​Baghdad, civil society activist Alaa Bashi Al-Jizani (photo 2) died after a car collided with him and its driver killed him and fled. Al-Jezani supported and participated in peaceful demonstrations.

That same evening, in Diwaniyah, the capital of Al-Qadisiyah Governorate, civil society activist Ahmed Al-Suwaidi and his colleague Arshad Al-Abdullah were shot at in their car on Doctors Street by a police officer at a temporary check point, leaving them at risk of losing their lives. The Governorate’s police commander announced that he has ordered legal action to be taken against the police officer who opened fire on the car.

The Iraqi government must end all forms of violence immediately and without any conditions, and ensure the protection of peaceful demonstrators and activists throughout the country by defending their civil and human rights, respecting public freedoms, including freedom of expression, freedom to demonstrate peacefully, and freedom of the press. It must also enact a fair election law and amend all other oppressive laws that perpetuate corruption and entrench the power of large political parties.

The Iraqi government should also conduct prompt, independent and impartial investigations into the killings of demonstrators and activists, with the aim of disseminating the findings and bringing all those responsible to justice according to international standards.

We call upon President Barham Salih, Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament Mohammad Al-Halbousi, and Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi to reveal the fate of all abducted human rights defenders and activists, because true reform starts with the protection of human dignity, and their absence means that the government has no real intention of reform.

Read more