“Although Iraq’s government operates in a complex environment, including in the context of stalled government formation,” said the Update on liability in Iraqpublished jointly by the United Nations Assistance Mission there (UNAMI) and the United Nations Human Rights Agency, OHCHR.
“However, continued impunity for the murders, disappearances, kidnappings and torture of activists undermines the authority of state institutions.”
Between May 1, 2021 and May 15 of this year, the report finds an increase in politically motivated violence during the pre-election and post-election period.
The authors explain that snap parliamentary elections took place in October last year in the wake of an “unprecedented wave of nationwide demonstrations in 2019” that were characterized by violence, excessive force, kidnappings and targeted killings that left hundreds of people dead and a thousand injured.
According to the latest news reports, the largest party to emerge from the vote, led by Shia religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr, has still failed to form a new coalition government.
The Update stresses that while some progress has been made, in particular in the area of compensation to victims, accountability remains limited.
From May 1, 2021 to April 30, UNAMI and OHCHR documented convictions in four cases related to violence committed by “armed elements”.
And while the government-established fact-finding commission is operational, it has not produced any investigative results or provided any public information about its work.
The report shows that Iraqi authorities have taken only “limited steps” to investigate the unlawful killing and wounding of protesters, critics and activists, saying that “much more needs to be done to identify the perpetrators of those crimes, arrest and prosecute, including those responsible for ordering and planning them.”
†UNAMI/OHCHR remains deeply concerned about continued limited progress towards accountability for crimes committed against protesters, critics and activiststhe report said.
And many who have been exposed to threats and violence have sought to be held accountable in vain.
Meanwhile, public space remains limited and those who express dissent are at risk of retaliation from armed elements, creating a climate of impunity for human rights violations, with a “chilling effect” on the right to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.
The Update advised the government of Iraq to conduct prompt, independent and credible investigations into all alleged human rights violations and abuses against protesters, activists, journalists and critics.
It also needs to work harder to ensure that victims have access to effective remedies, such as judicial and administrative procedures that are responsive to their needs.
Victims must also be informed about the scope, timing and progress of the proceedings and the handling of their cases.
And the government must assist victims throughout the legal process, taking steps to minimize their inconvenience, protect their privacy and ensure their safety – as well as that of their families and witnesses on their behalf – from harassment.
The international community also has a role to play.
The report advocates funding and capacity building programs for police and justice, including structured monitoring.
This aims to ensure that entities comply with international human rights standards with regard to investigations, prosecutions and victims’ rights, in particular with regard to crimes against demonstrators, activists and critics, and to provide assistance where necessary.