Iraq arrests dozens of security officers over protester killings

Iraq issues arrest warrants for scores of security officers over protester killings
2 min read
16 October, 2019
Iraqi authorities have come under fire for their slow response to mounting protester death toll at the hands of its security forces.
Security forces intervene in demonstrators during an anti-government protests in Baghdad [Getty]
Iraq's judiciary has issued arrest warrants for a number of officers and security forces charged with using excessive force and killing demonstrators when mass protests against corruption, unemployment and poor public services swept the country last month, a Baghdad official has said.

Six officers are under investigation in the Iraqi capital over the killing of protesters in Al-Falah Street, Sadr City between 3 and 6 October, a senior official in Baghdad told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service. 

They added that three officers have been referred for investigation over violations against protesters in Hilla, south of Baghdad, while arrest warrants have been issued for a senior officer in Wasit governorate, as well as one in Maysan and two more in Dhi Qar.

Comment: Iraq's lost generation

The news comes several days before the publication of a government investigation into the deadly violence during protests that left more than 100 dead and over 6,000 wounded.

The same official said Colonel Walid al-Oqabi, a deputy security director in Wasit province, had been arrested on charges of killing protesters in the Jaafariya neighborhood of Kut.

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The court in Kut has issued warrants to arrest two police officers after witnessing camera footage and hearing testimonies of violence against protesters.

Iraqi authorities have come under fire for their slow response to mounting protester death toll.

"For more than a decade, Iraqi governments have said they would investigate abuses by security forces but haven't done so," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

Amnesty International - which said it interviewed eight activists and journalists who described seeing protesters killed by snipers - urged authorities to properly investigate the "use of excessive and deadly force".

Security forces did not protect protesters from sniper fire, Amnesty said, "nor have police intervened and arrested anyone responsible for firing at demonstrations".

Authorities initially blamed "unidentified snipers" and infiltrating "saboteurs" but later acknowledged that the military had used "excessive force" in the mainly Shia area of Sadr City in Baghdad.

Footage circulated on social media showed demonstrators being fatally shot, or running for cover under heavy fire.

Iraq's populist cleric Muqtada Sadr on Tuesday urged millions of worshippers to protest against corruption during the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage, the largest in Shia Islam.

The pilgrimage to the holy city of Karbala takes place on Saturday.

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