Unidentified gunmen have since August 14, 2020, assassinated two protesters and wounded another four, all linked to a youth protest group with political aspirations in Basra, in southern Iraq, Human Rights Watch said today. They are the most recent victims of killings of hundreds of protesters in Baghdad and southern Iraq since October 2019, including by abusive security forces.
The authorities have done little to stop the killings. Despite promises since May from Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi for accountability for excessive use of force by security forces, no senior commanders have been prosecuted. Instead, a few commanders have been fired, and low-level security force members have been prosecuted.
“The situation in Iraq has devolved to the point that gunmen can roam the streets and shoot members of civil society with impunity,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch. “It’s unclear whether the federal government is even able to rein in the violence at this point and ensure justice for victims.”
The recent Basra victims had ties to the Al-Basra Civil Youth group, which youth protesters founded in 2014 to organize protests in the city, three members told Human Rights Watch. Members of the group recently decided to form a new political party to participate in parliamentary elections planned for June 2021.