Iraq urged to probe excessive force used at protests

At least 14 people have been killed in the two weeks of protest in Iraq.
Wednesday 25/07/2018
Iraqi riot police block protesters from gaining access to the heavily guarded Green Zone during protests demanding services and jobs in central Baghdad, on July 20. (AP)
Iraqi riot police block protesters from gaining access to the heavily guarded Green Zone during protests demanding services and jobs in central Baghdad, on July 20. (AP)

LONDON — A leading international watchdog has called on the government of Iraq to investigate the excessive use of force against protesters demanding better services and jobs in the country’s south.

In a report issued on Tuesday, the Human Rights Watch also urged that members of the security forces responsible for using lethal force at the rallies be disciplined or prosecuted.

Residents of oil-rich Basra province staged protests on July 8 against the lack of jobs and poor services. The rallies spread to other provinces in Iraq’s Shia heartland.

The protests turned violent with security forces killing a number of protesters who attacked policemen and damaged government property.

HRW’s Mideast chief Sarah Leah Whitson has warned that “as the government fails to address protester grievances, the danger of further bloody protests remains real.”

Iraq protests leave 14 dead in two weeks

At least 14 people have been killed in the two weeks of protests, a member of the state human rights commission said Monday.

Rights commission official Fadel al-Gharrawi said the 14 people had died in Basra, Samawah, the Shia shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala and in the provinces of Diwaniyah and Babylon.

He did not specify whether those killed were protesters or members of the security services, but a Sunday toll compiled from medical sources put the number of dead at 11, all demonstrators.

Gharrawi said 275 protesters and 470 security personnel were wounded during thousands-strong demonstrations against corrupt officials.

He said over 800 people had also been arrested, but said “the majority were later released”, without providing a precise figure.

Local officials and medical sources said most of the dead were killed by gunfire from unidentified assailants, while one person suffocated on tear gas used to disperse the demonstrators.

At least one Basra demonstrator was killed by security forces, local officials said, but authorities have also accused “vandals” of infiltrating protests.

Gharrawi, who was appointed by parliament, said he had “urged Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to avoid violence and indiscriminate arrests” but also called on protesters to “behave peacefully”.

(The Arab Weekly staff and news agencies)