CIVICUS

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Iraq

Live rating: Repressed

Last updated on 03.12.2018 at 14:42

Iraq-Overview

Although the majority of civil society organisations in Iraq are in their early stages of development, some are active and efficient, especially those involved with election-monitoring

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Protesters killed, journalists detained and media outlets set ablaze during wave of protests

Protesters killed, journalists detained and media outlets set ablaze during wave of protests

Association

On 25th September 2018, woman human rights defender Dr. Su’ad Al-Ali, the head of Al-Weed Al-Alaiami for Human Rights, was assassinated in the Al-Abbasiyah district in downtown Basra after an unknown gunman shot her in the head. Her driver, Hussain Hassan, was also injured in the attack. Dr. Al-Ali was a leader of the previously documented protest that broke out in Basra on 14th July 2018. The mobilisation then spread to other cities as demonstrators gathered to protest against several issues including unemployment, lack of clean drinking water, and corruption. Security forces used tear gas and live bullets to disperse protesters. The nationwide protests continued throughout August and September.

Dr Al-Ali leaves four children behind. Al-Weed Al-Alaiami for Human Rights works to protect women’s and children's rights.

Peaceful Assembly

Demonstrators who participated in the Basra protests were arrested in September 2018, according to the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR). Security forces of the Ministry of the Interior, led by the “Soqour” Intelligence Cell arbitrarily arrested a large number of peaceful demonstrators. On 13th September 2018, independent civil society activist Murtaza Safi was also arrested and on 15th September 2018, independent civil society activist Waleed Al-Ansari was arrested from his home along with other activists. Both activists were involved in the protests.

On 18th September 2018, 13 detained protesters were released including Murtaza Safi and Waleed Al-Ansari. 

Expression

During the protests in Basra, at least seven Iraqi journalists were assaulted or detained according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. Journalists who were targeted included Reuters photographer Essam al-Sudani while he was covering a sit-in on Abdel Karim Qassem Square in the southern Iraqi city of Basra on 1st September 2018.

CPJ also reported that offices of two local media outlets were set on fire. On 6th September 2018, protesters reportedly set fire to the headquarters of the state-owned broadcaster Al-Iraqiya TV and Al-Forat TV, which is affiliated with the Hikma Movement of the Iraqi Shia cleric Ammar Al-Hakim.

On 2nd October 2018, journalist Saif Al Azawi was released after he was arrested on 1st October by Iraq’s national intelligence service. Al Azawi was questioned at the intelligence service's headquarters about reports on his Adhamiya News page on Facebook and about suspicions that he had been “blackmailing politicians.”

Iraq currently ranks third on CPJ’s Global Impunity Index released on 2nd November 2018, the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes Against Journalists. The index highlights countries where journalists are slain, and their killers go unpunished. 

Association

The Iraqi Constitution guarantees individuals and groups the freedom to form associations while the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations of 2010 governs the registration and operation of civil society organisations.

The Iraqi Constitution guarantees individuals and groups the freedom to form associations while the Law on Non-Governmental Organisations of 2010 governs the registration and operation of civil society organisations. The Judiciary has the right to cancel and revoke the permits of civil society organisations if the General Secretariat of the Council of Ministers requires it. Although not provided for in the legislation, the implementing regulation imposes a mandatory registration for all organisations. There are no restrictions on receiving foreign funding and organisations can easily obtain such funds. Human rights organisations are not specifically targeted, although they face heighted security threats in areas controlled by Daesh/ISIS. In 2014 for example, ISIS kidnapped and killed human rights defender Samira Saleh Al-Naimi. In Iraqi Kurdistan, human rights defenders working on the promotion of women’s rights face intimidation and harassment, especially from other members of the community.


Peaceful Assembly

The Iraqi Constitution safeguards the freedom of peaceful assembly and Provisional Order 19 of 2003 provides a framework regulation for demonstrations.

The Iraqi Constitution safeguards the freedom of peaceful assembly and Provisional Order 19 of 2003 provides a framework regulation for demonstrations. Organisers of public gatherings are required to obtain prior approval from government authorities at least 24 hours before the event. Government authorities can also impose place and time restrictions, while justifications, such as national security issues and the need to protect people from terrorist attacks, have been continuously used to postpone, cancel, or ban demonstrations. In practice the right to peaceful assembly is regularly violated, with security forces using excessive force to disperse and prevent protests. In 2016, thousands peacefully protested about the lack of state services and corruption. During one demonstration, at least five people were killed by security forces using an unnecessary amount of force to disperse the protests.

Expression

The Iraqi Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. However, conditions for the press and media workers are particularly harsh

The Iraqi Constitution guarantees freedom of expression. However, conditions for the press and media workers are particularly harsh. The Publications Law prescribes prison terms for insulting the government, and libel and defamation are also criminal offences. This legislation is frequently used by the authorities to prevent journalists from reporting on major issues of public interest such as corruption cases. The Communications and Media Commission (CMC) is the primary body responsible for regulating broadcast media, and has released guidelines for media that place arbitrary restrictions on coverage. Under those guidelines, the authorities suspended Al Jazeera's license to operate in the country. Journalists operate in an extremely dangerous environment, facing violence and harassment from state and non-state actors. Since 1992, 174 journalists have been killed. The country also lacks national legislation guaranteeing access to information, although the government of the Kurdistan Region adopted the Right to Access Information Law, No. 11 of 2013. The Internet has also been restricted in the country as authorities slowed down the public’s connection on at least two occasions for unjustified reasons.