Civil society groups urge release of detained Basra youth demonstrators


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SULAIMANI — Fifteen civil society organizations accused Interior Ministry officers on Sunday (September 16) of carrying out randomly arresting of dozens of young activists in Basra.

The organizations said in a statement that "based on the testimony of activists and citizens of Basra, as well as information received from private sources, the Interior Ministry's intelligence unit is carrying out arrests and forcing [detainees] to sign false statements. All of this [has been] documented by our organizations [on the basis of] live testimony, press reports, and information declared [by witnesses]."

"In order to cover up these acts, the security forces have raided homes at night. They have taken civilian activists to unknown places. We do not have accurate statistics on the number of detainees, the conditions of their detention, or the charges against them."

Many of the organizations are dedicated to the welfare of young people and the promotion of human rights and freedom of expression.

"We are a group of civil society organizations from different governorates of Iraq and, in raising our public objections to the arbitrary arrests of young people in Basra, we condemn these unconstitutional acts by the Interior Ministry [which has been doing this] without judicial warrants and is violating the freedoms and human rights principles that are guaranteed by the Constitution, Iraqi laws, and international agreements signed by Iraq," the statement continued.

"We declare our solidarity with the people of Basra and decry the suffering of this devastated province. We stress our commitment to the truce announced by the demonstrators after the outbreak of [violence], during which sixteen martyrs were killed by Basra Operations Command and SWAT forces, hundreds were wounded, and detainees were brutally tortured.”

The statement said that the organizations considered the security forces to have committed "arbitrary and flagrant violations of constitution” and that they “hold the prime minister as commander-in-chief of the armed forces and the interior minister responsible for this breach.”

“We also hold them [the security forces] responsible for the safety of young detainees who are currently in prisons or have been arrested,” it added.

The statement called on the prime minister and the minister of interior to release the young detainees immediately without preconditions, restrictions, or bail payments and called for an urgent investigation of the Basra operations commander and the SWAT forces regarding the deaths and injuries caused by their actions.

It also called on "the international community, concerned international organizations, and the United Nations [to provide] support and solidarity and to protect young people and activists from being arrested.”

"Iraqi organizations and all activists [should] stand with the youth of Basra and to protect them, after [they were smeared by] letters of incitement by corrupt politicians, media ads from news sites, and the pages of their media.”

"We are in the process of raising [our objections with members of] the international community, which is still on the sidelines of what has been happening in Basra since the death of sixteen demonstrators,” it concluded.

The organizations that signed the statement included the Freedom of Press Association, Amarji Media Development Center, Tawarek Youth Empowerment Organization, Nissan Institute for Democratic Awareness, Foundation for the Adoption of Youth Activism, Dhar Center for Development, Al-Ghad Orient Foundation, Civil Center for Studies and Legal Reform, Madarak Foundation for the Study of the Mechanisms of Intellectual Advancement, Organization for Children of Displaced Persons, New World Electronic Newspaper, Network of Lawyers Defending Freedom Of Expression, Heba Al-Rahman Organization for Relief and Human Development, Injaz Al Basrah Development & Development Est, and Organization for Advocacy Of Women's Issues.