Rights groups condemn continued crackdown on Iraqi protesters

'Same policy of excessive violence'
An Iraqi demonstrator pulls a burning tire during ongoing government protests in Basra, Iraq, January 20, 2020. REUTERS/Essam al-Sudani

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SULAIMANI — Following the deaths of four protesters and two police officers in Iraq on Monday (January 20), rights groups condemned the continued crackdown on demonstrators.

“Disheartening reports that security forces once again meet protesters with violence in Baghdad,” Amnesty International said in a tweet.

“It is the right of every Iraqi to be allowed to protest peacefully. It is the duty of Iraqi security forces to protect that right,” it added.

Amnesty also noted that there has been no meaningful accountability for members of the security forces accused of killing protesters. More than 500 have died since the unrest began on October 1 and more than 17,000 have been wounded.

Protests escalated on Monday following the expiration of the “Nassiriya deadline” for the political authorities to comply with protesters’ demands.

Ali al-Bayati, a member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights, lamented in a tweet that the authorities had continued to use excessive force against demonstrators.

“The ultimatum of the protestors has been faced by the government instead of achieving their demands, with the same policy of excessive violence against the protestors,” Bayati said.

At least one protester was believed to be shot dead by the security forces in Baghdad on Monday, which another was fatally struck by a tear gas cannister.

In an interview with state broadcaster al-Iraqiya, Ministry of Interior Spokesperson Major-General Khaled al-Muhanna denied that the security forces had been using live ammunition and had shown “high discipline.”

“The security forces are ready and will not allow the cutting of roads or the disruption of the interests of citizens,” Muhanna added.

(NRT Digital Media)