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UNAMI calls on Iraqi government to find missing protesters

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) urged the new Iraqi government on Saturday to make efforts to find protesters who have been missing since October.

Iraq must comply with international law by “making all efforts to locate those demonstrators and activists who remain missing,” the mission said in its fourth report on the protests which spread across central and southern Iraq late last year.

Baghdad should also “take immediate action to investigate all alleged cases of abduction, disappearance and torture/ill treatment in the context of ongoing demonstrations and prosecute those responsible,” it added.

Before the spread of COVID-19, Iraq had been rocked by months of nationwide unrest since October as overwhelmingly young crowds demanded jobs, services, and action against corruption.

When security forces and pro-Iran militias began attacking protesters, killing hundreds, activists began demanding an end to foreign interference in Iraqi affairs and called for the overthrow of the political elite.

The UNAMI report documents cases involving 123 people who went missing between October 1 to March 21. Of these, 98 have been found while 25 others remain unaccounted for.

The agency has verified the death of 490 activists and the injury of 7,783 others since October.

The protests led to the resignation of then-prime minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who was recently succeeded by Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

In his first cabinet meeting on May 9, the new PM ordered the Supreme Judicial Council to release all protesters detained by the former government – a move welcomed by many.

“UNAMI welcomes the new government’s recent announcement of its establishment of a fact-finding committee to prepare lists of victims of violence during the demonstrations, and provide compensation to the families of victims,” the report added.

Amnesty International urged Kadhimi on May 7 to prioritize human rights and launch “thorough and independent investigations” into the killing of protesters.

The new premier has called for investigations into the violence committed against protesters – a “crucial step forwards justice and accountability” according to UNAMI chief Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, who has praised the new administration for its efforts. Source