HRW criticizes Kurdish authorities’ use of arrests to deter protests in Iraq

The NGO Human Right Watch (HRW) has criticized this Sunday that the Kurdistan regional security forces in Iraq have arrested journalists, activists and politicians with the aim of deterring the protests called.

“Using arbitrary repression to quell protests and intimidate activists and journalists is a recipe for spreading further grievances among residents of (the Kurdistan Region of Iraq’s) KRI,” said Human Rights Watch’s deputy Middle East director Adam Coogle.

In this regard, the HRW representative has qualified that “the best way to address public anger is to ensure respect for basic rights and freedoms, including the right to peaceful protest.”

Coogle has reiterated that “the pre-emptive arrest of activists, opposition politicians and journalists simply for organizing, attending and covering peaceful political protests is not a source of pride,” despite his admission that “Kurdish authorities often promote prosperity and stability in the region.”

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On August 1, the leader of the opposition New Generation party, Shaswar Abdulwahid, called for demonstrations on August 5 and 6 in several cities due to worsening “corruption, poverty and unemployment.”

HRW has documented an increase in attacks against journalists in the region. Rahman Gharib, director of Metro Center which monitors press freedom in the region, indicated that he had identified 78 rights violations by security forces against 60 media professionals. At least 26 journalists were detained, 23 had their equipment confiscated and 16 were unable to cover the protests because of the authorities’ refusal.

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Gharib claims that agents attack journalists, “instead of protecting them” because “they are afraid of camera lenses revealing their own illegal behavior.”

Moreover, regional laws do not play in favor of the right to information. The press law and the law to prevent the “misuse” of telecommunications equipment prohibit the use of telephones or the Internet. This misuse includes threats or publication of images “contrary to the values of the public,” explains the NGO.

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