Document - Iraq: Rein in security forces following the killings of dozens at protest in al-Hawija
25 April 2013
AI Index: MDE 14/006/2013
Iraq: Rein in security forces following the killings of dozens at protest in al-Hawija
Amnesty International has called on the Iraqi government to rein in army and security forces following the killings of dozens of people in al-Hawija in Kirkuk province on 23 April 2013 as anti-government demonstrations are expected to continue in Iraq. Amnesty International urges the Iraqi authorities to respect freedom of peaceful assembly and expression and to issue clear instructions to security forces not to use unnecessary or excessive force against protestors.
In the morning of 23 April 2013, Iraqi security forces raided a sit-in of hundreds of protesters at a central square in the city of al-Hawija leading to violent clashes and shootings that caused scores of people being killed or injured. Dozens of people were reportedly killed by Iraqi security forces and according to official sources three soldiers were killed. Iraqi forces dismantled the protesters’ camp and reportedly detained scores of protesters. Following the incident in al-Hawija, so-called “revenge” attacks against security forces have been reported causing further deaths.
The Iraqi authorities announced an official investigation into the incident in al-Hawija. However, Amnesty International fears that, like in other recent investigations, it will fail to meet international standards. The organization calls on the authorities to ensure that the investigation into these killings is effective, independent, impartial and thorough and that the methods and findings are made public. Anyone found responsible for violations – including anyone responsible for arbitrary or abusive force against protestors – must be brought to justice.
Amnesty International urges the Iraqi authorities to uphold the rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and ensure that all persons detained in the context of anti-government protests are given prompt access to legal counsel of their own choosing and to regular contact with, including visits from their families. During their initial period of detention detainees in Iraq are frequently held incommunicado, i.e. totally cut off from the outside world; these conditions that are widely known to facilitate torture and other ill-treatment.
The protests in Hawija took place in the context of anti-government demonstrations that have been ongoing since December 2012 in pre-dominantly Sunni areas of Iraq. Protesters accuse the Prime Minister of leading a government that discriminates against Sunnis. They have also demanded greater respect for due process, the enactment of an amnesty law and a review of the country’s anti-terrorism law. Many of the protests have been peaceful but others have led to clashes between security forces and protestors, resulting in fatalities. On 25 January 2013, for example, troops were reported to have killed several protesters when they began throwing stones at them in Fallujah. The authorities announced an investigation but so far no findings have been made public.