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Amnesty urges Iraq’s new prime minister to prioritize human rights

Amnesty International urged Iraq’s newly-inaugurated Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to prioritize human rights, take action on domestic violence, and investigate the killing of hundreds of protesters during the country’s recent unrest.

Mustafa was sworn into office in the early hours of Thursday morning, replacing caretaker prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who resigned late last year following nationwide protests.

Young Iraqis began occupying city squares across the country in October 2019 to demand basic services, job opportunities, and action against corruption. They were brutally suppressed by security forces and pro-government militias. More than 600 people were killed and at least 18,000 injured.

“This new government has an opportunity to ensure that the promotion and protection of human rights in Iraq is prioritized after years of appalling violations,” said Razaw Salihy, Amnesty International’s Iraq Researcher, in an open letter to Kadhimi.

“The Iraqi people have paid too high a price for decades of impunity and what have so far been repeatedly hollow promises by the authorities. We welcome the government’s stated commitment to hold those responsible for protesters’ killings accountable, and to prioritize addressing the needs of the internally displaced people.

“It must now translate these promises into immediate and meaningful action, including addressing the Iraqi people’s longstanding socio-economic grievances.”

Amnesty called on the new government to conduct “thorough and independent investigations” into the killing of protesters.

An Amnesty report earlier this year found Iraqi security forces used an arsenal of weaponry against protesters, “nearly all of which are inappropriate as policing tools”, including grenade launchers, air rifles, birdshot, slingshots, and batons, together with live ammunition and military grade teargas.

Iraq has been in a partial lockdown for almost two months to prevent the further spread of COVID-19. It has so far recorded 2,543 cases nationwide, including the Kurdistan Region. Of this number, 1,626 have recovered and 102 died.

Amnesty said the lockdown has led to a rise in domestic violence, which “demands immediate action” by the government.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) recently called on the Iraqi parliament to pass legislation to stop domestic violence which is “increasing under COVID-19 measures.”

“Domestic violence has always plagued Iraq,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at HRW, in a statement.

“We see case upon case of women and girls dying at the hands of their families, but Iraq’s lawmakers have not done enough to save those lives.”

Amnesty also urged the government to address allegations of collective punishment of internally displaced persons (IDPs) with alleged ties to the Islamic State group (ISIS). Source