Iraq: GCHR’s 21st Periodic Report on Human Rights Violations in Iraq




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This twenty-first periodic report issued by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) on the situation of human rights in Iraq covers a range of issues and topics, including the assassination of civil society activists, weak government accountability procedures, and intimidating judicial rulings against peaceful demonstrators. The report also touches on children's rights and freedom of the press, in addition to the latest developments in the protest movement in Iraq.

Massacre in Jableh

On 30 December 2021, an officer with the rank of captain working in the anti-drugs forces in the capital, Baghdad, took advantage of his position and gave misleading information to the security forces about his father-in-law, claiming that he was a drug dealer, due to family disputes. The security forces tried to arrest him at his home in Jableh district, in northern Babil Governorate, and an exchange of gunfire took place. A large group of reinforcements subsequently arrived carrying various types of medium and heavy weapons that were used to storm the house, which led to the killing of all 20 people inside their house, including 12 children. It was later revealed that the head of the family is not wanted by the authorities. The Iraqi authorities arrested a number of officers and security personnel after the massacre. On 03 January 2022, the Supreme Judicial Council announced that, "The competent investigative judge confirmed the statements of thirteen defendants, including nine officers and three affiliates, in addition to the informant who gave incorrect information."

GCHR condemns this criminal incident against an innocent family whose members, many of them children, were all killed in cold blood. There is no doubt that the main reasons for the occurrence of this massacre are the incompetence of the Iraqi security forces, mismanagement, lack of professionalism, and the weakness of the state in general to the extent that it allowed a member of the security services to use his own force to settle personal and family disputes, forgetting that the main mission of the security forces is protecting citizens, not killing them.

Remembering the victims of the protests who lost their lives

Most cases of civil society activists and protesters who were assassinated during the last two years are still clearly neglected in Iraq, where the government's measures to bring justice to the victims and prosecute the perpetrators are described as weak by local observers.

On 08 December 2021, citizens, including a number of human rights defenders (main picture), recalled the second anniversary of the assassination of prominent human rights defender Fahim Al-Taie (pictured above) in Karbala governorate, southwest of Baghdad.

During the remembrance, participants demanded that the Iraqi government take serious measures to prosecute the killers of the protesters and bring them to justice. Al-Taie, who was assassinated on 08 December 2019, is considered one of the most prominent leaders of the protests in Karbala Governorate, and his assassination marked a turning point for the protesters in the governorate, and demonstrated the security risks for activists.

In 2019, GCHR documented the assassination of Al-Taie, who was shot by two masked persons on a motorcycle carrying guns equipped with silencers before they escaped in the security-fortified Al-Baroudi area in the city centre. Al-Taie had announced in the morning that he had received threats from the same armed group that targeted his colleague, academic and civil society activist Muhannad Al-Kaabi with an adhesive explosive device. The photo above on the right shows how Al-Taie bravely stood up to his killers to set an unforgettable example of a human rights defender who did everything in his power to fight corruption and defend the civil and human rights of citizens.

On 28 November 2021, dozens of peaceful protesters in Nasiriyah, capital of Dhi Qar Governorate, demonstrated to recall the massacre known as the "Zaytoun Bridge massacre" in 2019, in which dozens of activists were killed. In 2019, GCHR documented the massacre that took place on 28 November 2019, during the rule of former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, in which 500 protesters were either killed, wounded or injured by tear gas.

Arrests and sentencing of civil society activists

The judicial intimidation carried out by Iraqi political parties against activists has not ended. After the assassinations they have been subjected to over the past two years, political parties have used lawsuits to silence some of the voices participating in the protests.

On 12 January 2022, civil society activist Dr. Dergham Majid Mahdi published a video on his Facebook page in which he explained the circumstances of an arrest warrant issued against him by the Anbar Appeals Presidency. He said he went to surrender himself to the security forces of Babil Governorate where he resides, but they asked him to wait. Mahdi was accused of defamation by some politicians after he organised a demonstration headed to Anbar Governorate, but it was not allowed to enter the governorate. He thanked his colleagues and all citizens in various governortes for their solidarity with him. He also confirmed that peaceful protests in front of the judiciary in the governorate would continue to call for the malicious lawsuits against the protesters to be dropped, and for the judiciary to be reformed.

Mahdi has been targeted several times in the past, including an incident documented by GCHR on 30 April 2021, when unknown assailants shot at his house in the western Hamza district of Babil Governorate. Fortunately, the incident did not result in any injuries.

On 19 December 2021, Iraqi security forces in Basra arrested activist Ammar Al-Halfi on charges of incitement, according to Article 328 of the Iraqi Penal Code.

On 27 December 2021, Al-Halfi’s wife wrote on her husband’s Facebook page: "I am the wife of activist Ammar Al-Halfi. Ammar’s session was postponed by the judge. I appeal to every honest Iraqi to save Ammar. Ammar defended your rights and said words of truth and this is the result. I appeal to the Basra government and the head of the Security Committee. Ammar has five children and lives in a rented house, and the Iraqi judiciary is supposed to do justice for him and stand with him and not be against him. I hope you will consider the case of Ammar and his five children, for where do they go?"

Al-Halfi uses his Facebook page to show solidarity with his fellow civil society and anti-corruption activists. On 18 December 2021, he wrote: "Every Basri is committed, honourable, and suffering from the bitter health reality, to prepare for a demonstration to demand the dismissal of the failed and corrupt director of Basra’s health unit. There is no going back without his dismissal."

On 10 January 2022, Al-Halfi was released, and wrote on his Facebook page: "Praise be to God, today I was released. Thank you to everyone who stood with me from the heroic Basra revolutionaries and the provincial revolutionaries for their honorable stance. Thank you to the lawyers…. Thank you to the Iraqi popular movement for their honoured position."

On 12 December 2021, the Muthanna Court of Appeals, in southern Iraq, issued a four-month prison sentence against activist Abu Ayham Al-Nuaimi on charges of communicating with foreign countries.

During the period in which Al-Nuaimi was imprisoned, activists in Al-Muthanna and other southern governorates organised vigils to demand his release. Ten days later, on 22 December 2021, he was released because none of the charges against him were proven.

GCHR documented on 01 October 2021, a grenade attack against his house in the centre of the city of Samawah, the capital of Al-Muthanna Governorate, by two unknown persons riding a motorcycle.

Attacks on civil society activists and demonstrators

The attacks perpetrated against civil society activists and demonstrators continue, despite government promises to help end them and hold the perpetrators to account. These attacks constitute a source of concern and danger for the participants in the protests.

On 08 January 2022, two demonstrators were injured in the city of Kut, the capital of Wasit Governorate, when they were shot by a member of an armed militia after dozens of demonstrators gathered in the celebration square in the city centre.

On 22 December 2021, protests against corruption and poor services took place in Dhi Qar Governorate. The protesters demanded the dismissal of Governor Ahmed Al-Khafaji, but the security forces confronted them and prevented them from reaching the governorate building.


During these clashes with the security forces, three protesters were wounded by security forces' bullets, and they were taken to hospital for treatment. Subsequently, the governor submitted his resignation the next day, on 23 December 2021.

On 28 November 2021, civil society activist Azhar Turki was subjected to an assassination attempt by three unknown persons who blocked his path late at night while returning from Al-Haboubi Square and beat him with their weapons.

According to activists from Dhi Qar Governorate who spoke to GCHR, "citizens transferred Turki to Nasiriyah Teaching Hospital to receive treatment, where he was subjected to three blows with a weapon."

Restrictions imposed on press freedom

The intimidation and persecution of journalists in an attempt to silence them and restrict their freedoms to report news and publish citizen issues has not ended. Rather, local authorities in some Iraqi governorates are imposing restrictions on freedom of the press and preventing them from covering cases that show poor public services and corruption.

On 20 December 2021, journalist and news presenter for Diwan satellite channel, Abdulrahman Al-Ghazali, was attacked by four unidentified people who got out of a black SUV they were traveling in. They beat him severely while he was with his family in central Baghdad, and the police forces who were nearby did not intervene to prevent the attack. Although he submitted a complaint about the incident, the authorities in the Ministry of Interior did nothing to identify the perpetrators.

On 02 December 2021, the Al-Ahad satellite channel correspondent in Anbar governorate, Hamid Al-Fahdawi (pictured above), was arrested by the Anbar Criminal Directorate, because he published the news of a person trying to rob an exchange office in Ramadi district, in the centre of the governorate.

Journalists in Anbar Governorate told GCHR, "Al-Fahdawi was arrested when the Anti-Crime Directorate called him and asked him to come to the Directorate for a coffee. But when he got there, they arrested him without a judicial warrant, and no charges were brought against him except for what they described as undermining the security of the governorate, because of his reports about services and thefts."

On 07 January 2022, he was released.

Violations of children rights

In recent months, Iraq witnessed attacks, violations and crimes committed against children, the most heinous of which were rapes. Some of the perpetrators bear the status of "security elements" in the state's security institutions.

On 26 December 2021, the Iraqi Ministry of Interior announced the arrest of a man who raped a seven-year-old girl, after he kidnapped her on 23 December with her brother, who managed to escape. The girl is in hospital in serious condition. Information received confirmed that the rapist is part of the security staff in the Ministry of the Interior. The incident took place in the Al-Hussainiya area, northeast of Baghdad.

On 20 December 2021, a five-year-old girl named Shams Nihad Al-Dafia was killed during an exchange of gunfire between National Security forces and wanted men in Baghdad. According to information received by GCHR, the incident occurred during the implementation of the national security duty to arrest suspects within the new Baghdad area.

On 18 December 12021, a shooting at a funeral in the village of Al-Niyaz at the entrance to the city of Nasiriyah, injured a girl under the age of ten.

On 13 December 2021, a remnant of a war projectile exploded in Al-Ansar neighbourhood in Al-Diwaniyah. The projectile exploded near the children on their way back from school, causing one to have a leg amputated and four others to be injured.

On 11 December 2021, civil society activists in Nineveh Governorate informed GCHR that a child had been killed and his brother wounded when a device left by Dae'sh exploded in the village of Sultan Abdullah in Qayyarah district, south of Mosul.

On 09 December 2021, the Muthanna Governorate Police Command announced the arrest of a person who sexually assaulted a six-year-old child after luring him in the city of Samawa. The perpetrator confessed to his crime when he was arrested, and his statements were written down and legally certified. He was arrested in accordance with Article 396 of the Iraqi Penal Code and was referred to court.

This series of sad events, which resulted in the killing of a number of children and the loss of others' hope for a prosperous future, calls for the urgent attention of the Iraqi authorities to start a comprehensive reform of the current laws, and to work seriously with the new parliament to pass the law against domestic violence and the law on the protection of children's rights.

Recommendations

The Gulf Centre for Human Rights urges:

1.The new Iraqi parliament to legislate the Child Protection Law;
2.All Iraqi politicians to stop intimidating civil society activists and journalists with lawsuits;
3.The committee responsible for investigating the cases of the killing of demonstrators, to announce its results and to prosecute the perpetrators;
4. The Iraqi government to provide the necessary protection for human rights defenders who are subjected to continuous violations and attacks




PM:02:58:15/01/2022




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