24 May 2016

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Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville

Location: Geneva

Iraq

We urge the Iraqi Government to immediately conduct an independent, transparent and effective investigation into the use of force by security forces against protestors outside the Green Zone in Baghdad last Friday. Four protestors were killed and up to 200 injured after security forces used tear gas canisters, rubber bullets and some live ammunition against the demonstrators for close to two hours. It has been reported that up to 200 people were subsequently arrested in connection with the protest, including a group of university students.

According to information we have gathered, the hundreds of protestors, including women and children, hailed mainly from different areas of Baghdad which have suffered terrorist attacks, such as Sadr city, and were calling on the Government to take immediate action to ensure greater accountability for these attacks and to protect their communities. The protestors were reportedly unarmed.

The Government has since accused Ba’athists and pro-ISIL elements of being behind the protests, and some media have referred to the protests as riots. This has, naturally, exacerbated tensions – as many eye-witnesses claimed that the protestors were waving Iraqi flags, seeking security for themselves and their families and accountability for killings of members of their communities due to acts of terrorism. Rather than placing blame on the protestors, we appeal to the Government to promptly announce an independent investigation to establish whether unnecessary or excessive force was used and to hold accountable by law any security officers who may have acted in violation of the strict standards required concerning the use of force by law enforcement officials.*

Additionally, we urge the Government to ensure that the protection of civilians is paramount in its military operations to retake Fallujah. We call on all parties to the conflict to adhere strictly to international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution in the conduct of hostilities, and to ensure that civilians are permitted to leave areas where fighting may be taking place in dignity and safety, and that they can access humanitarian assistance.

On a separate matter, we are concerned at the announcement by the Ministry of Justice that 22 people have been executed in the past month. The statement did not provide any details as to the identities of those executed or for what crimes they had been convicted, nor where the executions were carried out. We have long called on the Iraqi Government to impose a moratorium on all death sentences and executions, particularly given the weaknesses of the Iraqi criminal justice system and the risk of non-compliance with international standards of fair trial and due process.