23 January 2021
English Arabic

Amnesty: Iraqi security forces used slingshots, grenade launchers against protesters

Saturday, 07 March 2020 22:12

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Iraqi security forces have used an arsenal of weaponry against protesters in Baghdad and other cities, “nearly all of which are inappropriate as policing tools,” a new report by human rights monitor Amnesty International found Thursday. 

The ongoing protests began in Baghdad and several other southern Iraqi cities in October 2019 with demands for jobs, public services, and action against corruption. 

Following a brutal crackdown by Iraqi forces and pro-government militias, the protesters began to demand the overthrow of the post-2003 political establishment. 

Brian Castner, a weapons investigator for Amnesty International’s Evidence Lab, has verified claims that security forces used grenade launchers, air rifles, birdshot, slingshots, batons, and rifles to disperse the protests. 

However, Karim Alewi, a member of the Iraqi parliament who sits on the security committee, has vehemently denied the accusations. 

“Tear gas canisters have been used by security forces against protesters in the past, but not anymore, and as a member of the security committee of the Iraqi parliament I assure you that live ammunition and birdshot has never been used, since day one,” Alewi told Rudaw English on Friday.

“We support the peaceful and real protesters, but there are some people who try to accuse the Iraqi forces of using deadly weapons, but that is absolutely not true,” he added. 

Amnesty has documented the use of “excessive and, in some cases, lethal force to disperse protesters.” 

Since October 1, more than 600 people, mostly protesters, have been killed and thousands more injured. 

“In Basra, the oppression is extreme, more than any other governorate. Shock forces use live ammo and tear gas on us all the time even for blocking roads. They even use animal hunting gear,” one protester told Amnesty in January.

According to the UN’s Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials, security forces “may use force and firearms only if other means remain ineffective or without any promise of achieving the intended result”.

Many activists and human rights groups have also questioned the Iraqi security force’s use of restraint techniques on protesters.

“I witnessed many cases where the security forces were dragging people on the ground and beating them,” one protester, whose account has been verified by Amnesty, told the monitor in January.

“Some were underage, 14 or 15 years old tops. When the beaten protesters would return to the main area of protests, they would have marks of batons and sticks on their bodies.”

Citing UN guidelines, Amnesty said: “Protesters have a right to expect that the security forces protect – not arbitrarily kill and maim – them. 

“The Iraqi authorities must urgently rein in the security forces, remove those responsible for serious violations and initiate thorough, independent investigations aimed at bringing accountability and redress for victims and their families,” it added.

Source: Rudaw

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