24 June 2021
The “Protect Iraqi Human Rights Defenders Now!” campaign supports freedom of expression and freedom of the press throughout all of Iraq.
Today, freedom of expression in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) is under attack. Five Badinan activists and journalists—Sherwan Sherwani, Hariwan Essa, Guhdar Zebari, Shvan Saeed, and Eyaz Karam—have been sentenced to six years in prison on trumped-up charges of “destabilizing the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq” when what they had done was report on government corruption and the protests against corruption that are taking place in the KRI. Their sentences were handed down after a highly irregular trial in which the men’s lawyers were denied access to the changes and evidence against the men. All five defendants claimed in court that members of the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG’s) security and intelligence agency had extracted their “confessions” under torture.
We initially hoped that either Appeal Court would overturn the sentences or that Nechirvan Barzani, the president of the KRG, would issue an amnesty for the activists. Unfortunately, neither action has happened so far.
Family members of the Badinan journalists have been threated. One was forced to flee the KRI to escape violence from KRG security forces threatening to kill him.
In addition to the five Badinan journalists, nine additional activists were arrested in Dohuk province at the end of last year. These activists include Amr Khalid, Firsat Ahmed, Sleman Kamal, Jamal Khalil, Sleman Musa, Masoud Ali, Sherwan Taha, Kargar Abas and Bandawar Ayoub, all of whom are scheduled to be tried in Erbil Court on July 5 and 12.
Organizations participating in our campaign will be attending the trial as observers. We call for international participation from members of civil society and by organizations concerned with human rights and freedom of the press to be present during the trial to ensure fair and just legal proceedings.
Previously, we have published two statements on the case of Badinan journalists. To learn more about their cases, visit these links:
Authorities in the KRI should guarantee the fundamental human rights of their all citizens.
We stand in solidarity with the human rights defenders and journalists in KRI and all over Iraq!
We raise our voice for the Freedom of Expression in the country!