Amnesty International calls on Iraqi government to end 'campaign of terror' targeting activists

Abductions, deliberate killings
FILE PHOTO: Demonstrators gather during a protest after the lifting of the curfew, following four days of nationwide anti-government protests that turned violent, in Baghdad, Iraq October 5, 2019. REUTERS/Thaier Al-Sudani/File Photo

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SULAIMANI — Amnesty International condemned on Friday (December 13) the deliberate killings and abductions of civil society activists in Iraq and called on the government to take action to prevent violations of human rights.

Saying that recent incidents amounted to a “campaign of terror,” the rights group noted that both prominent activists and regular protesters were being targeted, citing incidents in Baghdad, Karbala, and Diwaniya.

“The authorities’ utter lack of action over the past weeks has paved the way for this horrifying new stage in what is clearly a full-on attempt to crush the protests in Iraq through instilling fear among the population,” Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director Lynn Maalouf said in a statement.

“The inaction of the government indicates, at the very least, acquiescence, and in some cases complicity, in the enforced disappearances, torture, and unlawful killings of people who are on the streets to claim their human rights,” she added.

Over the past week, there have been several high-profile abductions and killings.

On Wednesday, environmental activists Omer Kazim al-Amri and Salman Khaiallah al-Mansoori disappeared while traveling to the Kadhmiya neighborhood to buy tents and other equipment for the protests in Tahrir Square.

On Tuesday night, activist Ali Lami, who was from the southeastern city of Kut, was abducted and killed in the Iraqi capital as he left the protests to go home.

Another prominent civil society activist, Fahem al-Tai, was killed in a drive-by shooting in Karbala late Sunday while returning home from protests.

However, Amnesty emphasized that lower-profile protesters were also being targeted in an effort to sow fear.

Also on Friday, Amnesty formally launched a campaign to determine the whereabouts and secure the freedom of lawyer Ali Jaseb Hattab al-Heliji. The 29-year-old had been defending and giving legal aid to protesters when he was forcibly disappeared on October 8 and has not been heard from since.

It is believed that militia associated with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are responsible for his abduction.

Protesters took to the streets at the beginning of October to demand an end to corruption, better public services, and employment, but since then the unrest has become a more general uprising seeking the ouster of the Iraq's political establishment.

More than 400 people have been killed in Baghdad and provinces in the south. Thousands have been injured in the unrest as the government and “third party groups” have used live ammunition, snipers, and tear gas in an attempt put down the protests.

“The international community must urgently speak up and address the alarming situation in Iraq, as it takes a new dangerous turn and risks escalating further. Iraqi people have suffered too long and too much from succeeding cycles of violence. There has to be a stop to it,” said Maalouf.

(NRT Digital Media)