Use of excessive force by security forces in Iraq results in several deaths and hundreds of injuries of peaceful protesters


(L-R) Ahmed Al Jamali, Karim Al Shammari and Safaa Al Khafaji


(Geneva, August 8, 2018) – On July 27, 2018, Alkarama requested the intervention of several UN experts in the cases of three Iraqi citizens who were severely beaten by the security forces in Iraq due to their participation in demonstrations across the country.

Use of excessive lethal force to crack down on Iraqi protests

In early July 2018, a wave of demonstrations spread quickly across Iraq to protest the lack of essential services such as water and electricity as well as the high unemployment rate.

The security forces systematically used lethal force against protesters by firing live ammunition. They also threw rocks towards the demonstrators, and severely beat them as a form of punishment for their participation in the peaceful protests. As a result, hundreds of protesters were arrested and injured, and several people were killed during the protests.

The security forces’ use of force against the protesters does not comply with international standards on the use of force in law enforcement operations, as enshrined in the 1990 United Nations Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials and the 1979 Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.

Severe beatings and torture in arbitrary detention of peaceful protesters

On July 15, 2018, two political activists, Karim Al Shammari and Safaa Al Khafaji, took part in a peaceful sit-in in front of the Babil governorate building in the city of Hillah to protest the lack of basic services.

Joint security forces – composed of members of the Iraqi Army, the Federal Police, the Intelligence of Federal Police and militias such as Al Hikma Movement – used excessive force to disperse the protesters.

Al Shammari and Al Khafaji were beaten by the joint security forces with wooden sticks and batons on their legs, backs, and heads. They were then forced into a car by the Federal Police, where the security forces severely beat them with sticks and batons for half an hour. Due to the injuries caused by the severe beating, Al Shammari and Al Khafaji were unable to move after they were allowed to leave the car.

On the same day, Ahmed Al Jamali – another political activist – participated as a spokesman in a peaceful protest in the square near the governorate building in Diwaniyah, in the Al Qadisiyyah governorate. As he refused to end the protest, joint security forces – composed of SWAT forces, the Federal Police and the Intelligence of Federal Police – apprehended and beat him.

The security forces arrested him and brought him to Diwaniyah police station. There, he was detained for five days and was subjected to torture by being severely beaten with batons, sticks and cables on different parts of his body, especially his back. Al Jamali was released on July 19, 2018 upon the payment of bail.

On July 27, 2018, Alkarama submitted the cases of Al Shammari, Al Khafaji and Al Jamali to the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, the Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.

Alkarama requested that the UN Special Procedures call upon the Iraqi authorities to investigate the violations the three victims were subjected to and to prosecute those responsible. Alkarama further asked the UN experts to urge the Iraqi authorities to immediately release all the peaceful demonstrators who have been arrested, and to refrain from resorting to the excessive and unnecessary use of lethal force against protesters.

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