Large protests met with violence in Baghdad
Peaceful protests that broke out in Baghdad’s green zone on May 20 2016 were met with lethal force by Iraqi security forces, including the use of rubber bullets, live ammunition and teargas canisters. Four people were killed and up to 200 protestors injured. According to eye witnesses, the protestors were unarmed and peaceful and included women and children who had gathered to protest the lack of accountability and investigation by the Iraqi authorities into attacks against their communities. The May 20 protest was the most recent in a series of mass demonstrations against government corruption and incompetence that began in July 2015. Iraqi government spokespeople denied that their forces had used live ammunition in the reported protest on television shortly afterwards and accused Ba’athists and pro ISIL elements of being behind the protests. In the aftermath of the protests, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights called upon the Iraqi authorities to carry out a full independent and impartial investigation into the events. On 10 June up to 5000 Shiite protestors gathered in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square to call for government reforms. There were no reports of violence.
The conflict in Iraq continues to negatively affect the right to freedom of expression of human rights defenders, journalists, the media and ordinary people. On 26 April 2016 threats and harassment were reported against Sarmad Al-Qasim journalist with the Lex news agency in the province of Diyala, following the publication of a file alleging corruption by Iraqi authorities. On 27 April 2016 Iraqi authorities suspended Al Jazeera’s licence to operate in the country, accusing the broadcaster of violating the official codes of conduct and broadcasting rules and regulation. According to reports, the Iraqi government used “war on terror” media guidelines to shut down the Baghdad bureau of the Qatari based news network. Previously, in March, authorities had closed the TV channel Al- Baghdadia. Subsequently on 16 May, it was reported that the Iraqi government shut down access to the Internet for three hours with the intention of preventing cheating in state exams taking place at that time.