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Iraqis abducted, tortured during anti-government protests: UN

Iraq's anti-government protests were met with a brutal crackdown by security forces [Getty]

Date of publication: 23 May, 2020

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Dozens of Iraqis who took part in anti-government demonstrations since late last year were subjected to abductions and torture, a new United Nations report has found.

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Iraq, protests
Dozens of Iraqis who were involved in ongoing anti-government protests since October 2019 were subjected to abductions and torture, a new United Nations report revealed on Saturday.

Between October 1, 2019 and March 21, 2020, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said it has received 154 allegations of missing protestors and human rights activists who were presumed to have been abducted or detained.

In every incident, those targeted for abductions had either participated in the protests or provided support to demonstrators, UNAMI said. Nearly all of the abductees were either activists prior to the protests, played significant roles in the demonstrations, or criticised authorities or armed groups on social media, it added.

Abductees were forced into vehicles by masked and armed men close to demonstration sites, according to UNAMI. Many described being blindfolded and driven to locations where they were detained.

All of them were "interrogated" by their captors, with questioning commonly focused on their role in the demonstrations, allegations of links to foreign states - particularly the United States - and their political affiliations.

All male abductees described being subjected to torture such as severe beatings, electrocution, hosing or bathing in cold water, being hung from the ceiling by their arms and legs, being urinated on, being photographed nude, death threats and threats to their families, UNAMI reported.

Female abductees said they were beaten, threatened with rape and touched in their "private areas".

Most ended up being released close to a highway or road, with several being told not to participate in demonstrations again and forced to sign documents of unknown content, according to UNAMI.

Though most victims chose not to file criminal complaints, those that sought accountability for their treatment did not receive any response from police or judicial authorities. In some cases, authorities advised them not to pursue their cases further.

UNAMI said it "welcomes the commitment of the new government to establishing the number and circumstances of casualties arising from violence linked to demonstrations", adding that this report was published in support of state efforts towards accountability.

Iraq's protest movement, named the "October Revolution", called for sweeping changes and a decisive end to the current system imposed after the 2003 US occupation, which marked the inception of a ruling system shaped by sectarian and religious division.

Demonstrators were met with a brutal crackdown by security forces, with at least 700 killed and thousands injured.

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