The Iraqi High Commission For Human Rights (IHCHR) reported that 56 activists remain missing across Iraq, with many of them reportedly abducted by unknown armed groups.
SULAIMANI — A total of 56 activists remain missing after being abducted by unknown groups, according to the Iraqi High Commission For Human Rights (IHCHR). In response to the ongoing anti-government unrest in central and southern Iraq, armed groups have engaged in targeted killings and abductions in an effort to disrupt the protests, which will hit the three-month mark this week.
IHCHR said in a statement on Saturday (December 28) that it had officially documented a total of 68 people who had been kidnapped since the unrest began in October. Twelve of those were released in Karbala two weeks ago.
“The Commission is following up with Anti-Kidnapping Cell of the Ministry of [Interior’s] efforts to reveal the fate of the remaining and release them soon,” the commission said in a statement.
The United Nation’s representative in Iraq and international human rights watchdogs have called on the government to protect protesters and for the abductors to release the activists unharmed.
On December 18, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert urged the authorities in Baghdad to act swiftly to ensure that human rights activists are protected from “an emerging pattern of abductions and targeted killings.”
“It is the ultimate responsibility of the State to protect its people. Abductions, unlawful arrests, and heinous killings have no place in a democracy. They must not become ‘the new normal’ in Iraq,” she added.
Amnesty International characterized the abductions and assassinations as a “campaign of terror” in a report released on December 13.
“The authorities’ utter lack of action over the past weeks has paved the way for this horrifying new stage in what is clearly a full-on attempt to crush the protests in Iraq through instilling fear among the population,” Amnesty International’s Middle East Research Director said in a statement on
Human Rights Watch also called on the government, including the Ministry of the Interior, to do more to prevent such violence.
“Whether the government or armed groups are behind the abductions in Baghdad, the government bears the responsibility for keeping people safe from such targeting,” said Human Rights Watch’s Middle East Director Sarah Leah Whitson in a statement on December 2.
“Authorities are failing Iraqi citizens by allowing armed forces to abduct people, and it will be up to the government to take swift action against these abuses,” she added.
Nearly 500 people have been killed and more than 17,000 others have been wounded since the protests began on October 1, according IHCHR.