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Press briefing notes Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights

Press briefing on Iraq

20 December 2019

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights:  Rupert Colville
Location: Geneva 
Date: 20 December 2019
Subject: Iraq


We are concerned by the continued pattern of deadly attacks in Iraq against human rights defenders, civil society activists and protesters. During the past 10 days alone, we have received credible reports of at least six separate incidents in Baghdad, Missan, Karbala and Diwaniya, resulting in three deaths and six people injured.

  • On 8 December and again, seven days later, on 15 December, improvised explosive devices attached to vehicles detonated in Diwaniya and Karbala, injuring three civil society activists, who had participated in demonstrations and appear to have been directly targeted.
  • On 8 December, in Amara city in Missan governorate, a human rights activist survived an attempt to kill him while on his way to visit a friend, but was seriously injured in the attack.
  • Also on 8 December, in Karbala city, a civil society activist was shot dead while riding his motorbike. Two other people on the motorbike were unharmed.
  • On 10 December, another human rights activist was shot and killed in Baghdad when leaving a protest site.
  • On 14 December, three civil society activists were gunned down from a pickup truck in Baghdad. One of them was killed, and the other two wounded. All three had been volunteers providing bread to protesters during the demonstrations.

We are following-up other allegations of targeted killings.

Currently, we have insufficient information to determine who the perpetrators of these latest attacks are, but witnesses and local people we have spoken to say they believe groups whom they describe as ‘militias’ are responsible. We are not aware of any progress made by the Iraqi authorities in tracking those responsible for these attacks.

The killings of civil society activists are occurring against a backdrop of disappearances of high-profile protesters in Baghdad. Many of those arrested by Iraqi security forces are being held in what may amount to incommunicado detention. Others are believed to have been abducted by groups referred to as ‘militias’, and they are at serious risk of ill-treatment. Both security forces and these so-called ‘militias’ are clearly targeting well-known demonstrators and activists. We are closely monitoring all cases that come to our attention.

A report issued last week by the Human Rights Office of the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) called for prompt and independent investigations into all demonstration-related deaths since 1 October. The report also called for immediate steps to prevent deliberate killings of human rights defenders and immediate action to release abductees from any form of unlawful detention.

For more information and media requests, please contact: Rupert Colville - + 41 22 917 9767 / [email protected]or Media Section -[email protected]

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