Global human rights organization Amnesty International highlighted abuses documented during anti-government protests and the campaign against Islamic State (IS) in an open letter to Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, urging him to place human rights at the heart of his government’s agenda.
The international rights charity asked the new Iraqi administration to protect the most vulnerable during the country’s COVID-19 lockdown, support Yazidi survivors of IS atrocities, and improve the treatment of internally displaced persons (IDPs)
“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 Amnesty International Iraq Researcher Razaw Salihy
The organization also called for an end to impunity for security forces violence, including killings and forced disappearances documented during Iraq’s campaigns against IS, and last year’s peaceful protests which overthrew the previous government.
“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,” Salihy added.
According to Amnesty, somewhere between 500 and 600 Iraqis were killed and thousands were injured in protests beginning in October 2019. Protestors called for better public services and for an end to government corruption, high unemployment, and interference by foreign powers like the US and Iran.
Amnesty reports that Iraqi security forces, including Shia militias of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), targeted “largely peaceful protesters with live ammunition, hunting rifles, live fire consistent with sniper fire, tear gas and water cannons.
The new administration, headed by former intelligence chief Kadhimi, is a product of the protests which prompted former PM Abdul Mahdi to resign.
“We are going through a critical phase in our history. Iraq is facing so many challenges – in our security, economy, healthcare and even socially, but it is not bigger than our determination to stand up to these challenges,” Kadhimi told Parliament after winning a confidence vote that rubber-stamped his nominated cabinet.
“The security, stability, and blossoming of Iraq is our path,” the new PM tweeted shortly after being sworn in.
Kadhimi is also a former journalist who criticized Saddam Hussein’s bloody dictatorship from exile in neighboring Iraq. His new government has promised Iraqis justice for the loss of lives of protesters as well as support for the internally displaced, assurances Amnesty International has welcomed.
“It must now translate these promises into immediate and meaningful action, including addressing the Iraqi people’s longstanding socio-economic grievances,” Salihy warned.