Amnesty urges Iraq to 'prevent bloodbath' after eight killed overnight

Amnesty urges Iraq to 'prevent bloodbath' after eight killed overnight
3 min read
10 November, 2019
The human rights group has previously condemned the Iraqi authorities for their deadly use of military-grade tear gas grenades to counter protests.
An Iraqi human rights monitor says 301 protesters have been killed [Anadolu]
Amnesty International has urged Iraq to "rein in" its security forces amid fears of a "bloodbath" after at least eight protesters were killed overnight.

The country's various political factions came to an agreement on Saturday to end the protests and keep unpopular Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi in power, prompting the deployment of security forces to sweep the streets of demonstrators.

With at least eight killed overnight, two of them reportedly by tear gas grenades as security forces attempted to clear the streets around Baghdad's protest hubs, Amnesty called on the government to "immediately rein in" its forces to prevent further deaths.

Iraqi authorities were accused earlier this week of using deadly military-grade tear gas grenades to disperse the mass anti-government protests.

"Baghdad and Basra have seen yet more bloody days of excessive force meted out against protesters. Iraqi authorities must immediately order an end to this relentless, unlawful use of lethal force," said Heba Morayef, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa Director.

Recent days witnessed the killing of at least 12 protesters in the southern city of Basra, with the total number killed over the past month at least 264, according to the human rights group.

The Independent High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq on Saturday put the toll at 301 killed and almost 15,000 injured.

Speaking to AFP, Iraqi activists have also warned of a pervasive "climate of fear" amounting to a "psychological war", with at least four well-known campaigners assasinated by unknown assailants in Basra and Amara.

Activists have also been subject to mysterious disappearances - some suspect they were arrested by undercover police officers - and threats. 

"This is turning into nothing short of a bloodbath - all government promises of reforms or investigations ring hollow while security forces continue to shoot and kill protesters," Morayef said.

"The government of Iraq has a duty to protect people's right to live, as well as to gather and express their views. This bloodbath must stop now, and those responsible for it must be brought to justice."

Speaking to the human rights group, medical workers who had witnessed security forces violently attempt to disperse demonstrators on Saturday said at least two caches of medical equipment used to treat horrific protester injuries had been destroyed in the fray, perhaps deliberately.

One medic said that tents being used to treat injured protesters near al-Rasheed street in Baghdad caught fire as security forces launched tear gas at demonstrators, destroying medical equipment worth thousands of dollars.

Another described how security forces stormed a medical tent near al-Sinak bridge, throwing tear gas canisters on the ground despite the presence of injured demonstrators. The canisters caused the tent to catch fire, forcing the medics and injured to flee, leaving behind precious medical equipment.

The attack also destroyed a tuk-tuk, clearly marked for its use to ferry injured protesters to hospital, the medic said.

Activists have previously accused security forces of deliberately attacking tuk-tuk drivers, who have become a symbol of Iraq's protest movement for their role as ambulance drivers.

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