GECHR: Killing Iraqi protesters is a war crime

Gulf European Centre for Human Rights


GECHR: Killing Iraqi protesters is a war crime


3rd October 2019   


According to Iraqi human rights activists, at least 30 protestors in Iraq were killed by security forces and Iranian-backed militias. The monitoring group confirmed that at least three demonstrators were killed in the southern city of Nasiriyah and 11 other demonstrators were killed in Baghdad. Reports confirmed that at least 1200 people were injured and about 600 people were arrested.

The unrest on Wednesday came after Iraqi activists asked citizens to protest against the authorities' repressive policy. Therefore, at least two protesters were killed – one in Baghdad and one in Nasiriyah – and hundreds of people were injured in clashes between police and protesters angry at unemployment, corruption, poor public services and Iranian intervention in the country.

Iraqi human rights sources said that the demonstrations spread to several Iraqi cities including Baghdad; so security forces, army, police and Iranian backed militias spread in Baghdad, Nasiriyah, al-Hilla, al-Amarah and Basra when peaceful demonstrations broke out demanding to stop the Iranian influence and provide services and end the economic, security and political failure in the country.

Social media platforms and Internet access have been blocked in the capital and other parts of the country, causing Iraqi activists to fear the authority's plan and militias to abduct and kill more peaceful demonstrators. Gulf European Centre for Human Rights on 30 August 2019 reported that at least 160,000-250,000 are disappearance by the Iraqi security forces and militias.

The United Nations has also called on the Iraqi authorities to exercise restraint. "Every individual has the right to speak freely, in keeping with the law," UN special representative Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert said.


Enforced disappearance

Iraq, after Syria, the second-largest country in the world suffering from enforced disappearance, where tens of thousands of citizens abducted by armed militias, some of them linked to the Iraqi government. Enforced disappearance in about 10 countries in the world is a real crisis because more than a thousand people disappeared but in Iraq, the situation is completely different where tens of thousands of Iraqi Sunnis abducted since 2003 but after 2014 the number has become much more. One cause of enforced disappearance in Iraq is a way to silence political dissidents and spread fear and terror in Iraqi society. Armed militias and some government agencies play a key role in this serious crisis.

The Working Group in its report mentioned that around 16,420 Iraqi disappeared that it has communicated to the Government of Iraq. This is, by far, the second largest number of any country, after Syria. However, Iraqi human rights groups believe that the number of disappearing is more than 250,000 cases, many of them killed in secret detention belonging to Iraqi militias and some government bodies. For example, some human rights organisations received information about the illegal burial of nearly 300 bodies that were transferred by the Babil Governorate to a so-called non-governmental organisation for burial. It seems that all those victims are Sunni from Babil and Baghdad province, who were disappeared in 2014.


International Law

Article 7 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court considers "enforced disappearance" a crime against humanity and is therefore within its jurisdiction.

The International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance states in its article 1 that “no one shall be subjected to enforced disappearance” and in article 2 that “no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or the threat of war, internal political stability, or any other exception, to justify enforced disappearance”. Article VII of the International Convention affirms the criminalisation of "any person who commits the crime of enforced disappearance, orders, recommends or attempts to commit it, is complicit or participates in its commission".

Article 5: The general or systematic practice of enforced disappearance constitutes a crime against humanity as defined in applicable international law and entails the consequences set forth in that law.

Protests play an important part in the civil, political, economic, social and cultural life of all societies. Hence, international law applies everyone has the right to associate with others and gather together for a common purpose. Article 11 is fundamental to keeping people free. It lets people protest peacefully, join trade unions and hold the powerful to account.

International human rights treaties and conventions have guaranteed the right of citizen protest since the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, which is a primary source of legislation. Article 20 states that “Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association”. Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that "States must recognise and guarantee the right to peaceful assembly."



The Gulf European Centre for Human Rights condemned the Iraqi authorities ill-treatment against the protestors and called on the Iraqi authorities to stop the violence and killing demonstrators and provide all the demands of the people, including ending the Iranian role in Iraq, combating corruption, ending the role of militias and the release of all detainees and abductees.

The GECHR declars that the assassination and injury of hundreds of Iraqi citizens is a war crime, therefore the GECHR calls on international organisations and the international community to intervene immediately and hold all violators of the rights of citizens in Iraq accountable. The centre also accuses Iraqi authorities and militias of violating international humanitarian and human rights law by killing and torturing Iraqi protestors.


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