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REPUBLIC OF IRAQ: Security forces deliberately attack peaceful protesters while internet is disabled

24 Jul 2018
[International Secretariat]
Region: REPUBLIC OF IRAQ
Topic:

Peaceful protesters in southern Iraq and Baghdad fear authorities are deliberatelydisabling internet access before security forces attack and open fire on them, Amnesty International has learned.

Trusted sources told the organization they believe internet access is being cut off to prevent them sharing footage and pictures of attacks by security forces in the southern governorates of the country.

Security forces are beating, arbitrarily detaining and even opening fire on peaceful protesters.

We fear this blackout is deliberately designed to give carte blanche to the security forces to repress peaceful activists without being recorded and held accountable.”

One 21-year-old man from al-Zubeir, to the west of Basra city, told Amnesty International he joined a demonstration on Sunday 15 July to protest against the ongoing lack of job opportunities in the area. He said a member of the Iraqi SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics) forces confronted the protesters and started firing at them before chasing and beating them.

He said: “They wanted to beat everyone and left no one without injury. One person was shot in the leg and I saw one person bleeding from his eye. As we retreated, one of them [SWAT] grabbed me and one beat me. When I struggled away, he threw the baton at me and broke my arm. They cut off the internet so they can beat us.”

In the past week, witnesses in Basra governorate have reported to Amnesty International that security forces have been using tear gas and live ammunition against protesters. At least eight people are reported to have died in protests so far.

In Baghdad on Monday 16 July two protesters were arrested. Later, they were beaten, tasered and interrogated about individuals who had organized the protests and asked if they belonged to extremist groups. Unable to see after their ordeal, they were subsequently forced to sign papers without being told what the contents were, and then released.

“Iraqi authorities must immediately put an end to the torture and other ill-treatment that has included beatings, harassment and intimidation of peaceful protesters by security forces and carry out prompt, independent and impartial investigations to bring all those responsible to justice. The authorities have a duty to ensure that everyone in the country can exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful protest without interference,” said Lynn Maalouf.

Background

Protests in Iraq erupted on Sunday 8 July over high levels of unemployment and inadequate government services across the south of the country.

The internet was cut late at night on Thursday 12 July. Although access was mostly restored on Monday 16 July, the signal reportedly remains weak across the country and several social media platforms remain blocked.

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL PRESS RELEASE
19 July 2018

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