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Amnesty urges Iraq to end forced disappearances, intimidation of activists

Anti-government protests erupted in Iraq earlier in October [Getty]

Date of publication: 19 October, 2019

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Amnesty International has urged Iraq to rein in security forces and militias accused of intimidating, killing and forcibly disappearing activists.
Human rights group Amnesty International has urged Iraq to end a "relentless campaign of intimidation and assault against activists" in the country's capital, as well as to reveal the whereabouts of individuals forcibly disappeared by security services during recent protests against corruption.

The human rights watchdog issued a statement on the matter after taking the testimonies of 11 activists, journalists, lawyers and relatives of detainees from sroung the country.

“Anyone voicing dissent in Iraq today faces interrogation at the point of a gun, death threats and enforced disappearance. The Iraqi authorities promised they would open an investigation into the killings of protesters," said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director, referring to widespread anti-government protests which broke out across Iraq earlier this month.

"It’s been over a week now since the protests quieted, there’s been no such action; instead, what we’re seeing is a continuation of the same approach – one of repression at a shocking cost to the Iraqi people."

Maalouf also urged Iraq to "dismantle the climate of fear they [security forces] have deliberately created" to prevent freedom of expression.

Among those have been forcibly disappeared are Ali Jaseb al-Hattab, a 29-year-old lawyer who has been representing arrested protesters, and Maytham Mohammed Rahim al-Helo.

Sources who spoke to Amnesty said they believe al-Hattab was bundled away by members of Hash al-Shaabi - the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) - on the evening of 8 October. Members of the militia had reportedly visited the lawyer just days before to warn him against speaking out about the killing of protesters on social media. 

In a single week of protests at the start of the month, 110 people were killed and 6,000 injured, according to official figures.

Read more: Prominent Iraqi blogger returns home after being kidnapped following anti-government protests

During the protests, unidentified armed men in uniforms raided several local television stations in Baghdad, destroying their equipment and intimidating their staff.

Journalists and activists also reported receiving threats, mostly by phone, from unidentified callers accusing them of having sided with the protesters. 

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