Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado
Date: 4 October 2019
We have seen a series of demonstrations across Iraq this week protesting against job scarcity and unequal provision of basic services. Most of the protestors are young and unemployed, demanding that their economic and social rights be respected.
We remind the Iraqi authorities that people's grievances need to be heard. The authorities have an obligation to do their utmost to support their citizens to make ends meet, including by addressing their right to employment. State authorities also need to allow people to express their grievances in a peaceful way.
We are worried by reports that security forces have used live ammunition and rubber bullets in some areas, and have also fired tear gas cannisters directly at protestors. UN human right staff have confirmed the deaths of 12 people in Baghdad. However, we have received reports – and I would stress this number is not yet verified – of up to 30 people in total being killed so far during protests in a number of towns and cities. Hundreds of other people have reportedly been injured, including members of the security forces. Dozens of demonstrators have been detained, although most were subsequently released.
We call on the Iraqi Government to allow people to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The use of force should be exceptional, and assemblies should ordinarily be managed without resort to force. Any use of force must comply with applicable international human rights norms and standards*, including the principles of necessity and proportionality. In any event, the use of firearms is prohibited, except as a last resort to protect against an imminent threat of death or serious injury. All incidents in which the actions of security forces have resulted in death and injury should be promptly, independently and transparently investigated
We are concerned about reports that at least three journalists covering the protests have been detained, and two of them were subsequently released. These detentions risk deterring other journalists from reporting on the situation. We are also concerned by cuts in internet service in most governorates across the country. Blanket internet shutdowns are likely to contravene freedom of expression, unduly restricting the right to receive and impart information and may exacerbate tensions.
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