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Iraq’s bias protecting officials who ordered targeting protesters

Protestors attend ongoing anti-government demonstrations in Iraq's capital Baghdad on November 01, 2019 [Murtadha Sudani / Anadolu Agency]
Protesters attend ongoing anti-government demonstrations in Iraq's capital Baghdad on 1 November 2019 [Murtadha Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

Iraqi officials have so far only issued two arrest warrants in response to the hundreds of lawsuits filed against the government, security personnel and politicians’ crackdown on unarmed protesters.

Neither of the arrest warrants is against a government official leading activists and legal experts to warn that the complaints are not being dealt with correctly.

The call for the arrests have been made on charges on “incitement” against demonstrators, the first against political analyst, Najah Mohammad Ali, who called for killing the protesters in a tweet. The other was against Sheikh Muzahim Al-Hawyeet, a tribal leader residing in Iraqi Kurdistan, after he twitted that the protesters are “bastard children”.

However authorities are not able to enforce the warrants issued because the individuals live in areas which are not under Iraq’s judicial control: Ali lives in London while the Kurdish Regional Government governs the area in which Al-Hawyeet resides.

Activist Laith Al-Atabi told Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed that the judicial authority tried to calm the popular wave of indignation by issuing the arrest warrants, but it ignored the lawsuits filed against those who are directly responsible for killing protesters and oppressing them. “Some of the lawsuits are backed by evidence and video footage confirming the offenders’ involvement in these crimes,” he added.

He accused the judiciary of “impartiality and being bias in favour of the government.”

READ: Security personnel join protesters in Iraq’s Karbala

A judge in one of the Iraqi courts told Al-Arabi Al-Jadeed that “most of the police chiefs operating in the governorates where the demonstrations took place, are facing charges of murder and inciting against the protesters following the submission of lawsuits against them, in addition to other lawsuits which have been filed against the interior minister for being responsible for ordering the murders. On the other hand, police officers, members of the security forces and elements of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF), as well as others are also facing criminal charges.”

“Most of these lawsuits are pending,” he explained, “waiting for orders from higher powers”, in reference to the prime minister.

Legal expert Yahya Al-Bayati said “the judiciary is being implicated and damaging its reputation by not dealing professionally with the lawsuits.”

“The judicial authority must issue arrest warrants based on the seriousness of charges mentioned in the lawsuits.”

He pointed out that “the judiciary’s reputation has been smeared, due to the biased way the demonstrations’ file has been handled.”

More than 320 demonstrators have been killed protesting in Iraq and more than 8,000 have been injured as authorities try to disperse gatherings.

READ: Iraqis bid sectarianism goodbye

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