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Press briefing note on Iraq

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Liz Throssell

Location: Geneva 

Date: 10 July 2020

Subject: Iraq

 

The shocking murder in Iraq this week of leading researcher and security analyst Hisham Al-Hushami in Baghdad has brought into sharp relief the risks faced by people who dare to challenge powerful militias in Iraq and are vocal about pervasive impunity and corruption.

The killing of Al-Hushami, who was shot dead by unidentified attackers outside his house on 6 July, has sent shockwaves through the country. He was an expert on terrorism, violent extremism, and armed groups and non-state actors in Iraq, including ISIL and militias. He was a vocal critic of the militias, and had also voiced public support for the demonstrations that began on 1 October 2019 against state corruption and impunity. 

We welcome the pledge by Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi to hold Al-Hushami's murderers to account. Hushami's killing, which is the most high-profile in recent months, follows a pattern of killings targeting individuals who were linked in some way to the demonstrations or who had voiced public criticism of the Government, political parties or militia groups.

The UN Mission in Iraq, UNAMI, and the UN Human Rights Office have verified the targeted killings of 23 people linked to the demonstrations from 1 October to 9 May, with a further 13 people being injured.  These victims included political and human rights activists, people who were vocal on social media in support of the demonstrators, and local community organisers. Many were killed in a similar way, often outside their home. 

There are credible reports that in nearly all these incidents, criminal investigations were started but we have neither received nor obtained information indicating that any alleged perpetrator has been identified or arrested.

We therefore welcome the stated commitment of the new Iraqi Government, which was formed in May, to establishing the number and circumstances of all casualties arising from violence linked to demonstrations, including the deaths of some 490 people during the demonstrations or near protest sites.

We call on the government to ensure accountability- through thorough, independent and transparent investigations and prosecution - for all violence perpetrated in relation to the demonstrations, and for targeted killings. It is vital that those responsible for ordering or planning or perpetrating such killings are all held to account. Victims and their families have the right to justice, truth and reparations.

ENDS

For more information and media requests, please contact: Liz Throssell - + 41 22 917 9296 / ethrossell@ohchr.org  or Jeremy Laurence - + 41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org or Marta Hurtado - + 41 22 917 9466 / mhurtado@ohchr.org

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