Iraqi govt. blocking demonstrations
Added under Iraq
Iraqi authorities should stop blocking peaceful demonstrations and arresting and intimidating organizers, Human Rights Watch said today. Iraqi security forces should also respect the right of free assembly and use only the minimum necessary force when violence occurs at a protest.
After thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in the summer of 2010 to protest a chronic lack of government services, Iraqi authorities cracked down on demonstrations. The Interior Ministry issued onerous regulations about public protests, and the prime minister's office apparently issued a secret order instructing the interior minister to refuse permits for demonstrations about power shortages. In the past few months, the government has refused to authorize numerous requests for public demonstrations, with no explanation. Authorities have also arrested and intimidated organizers and protesters, and policing actions have led to deaths and injuries. The clampdown has created a climate of fear among organizers and demonstrators.
"To take away the rights and freedoms Iraqis have been promised in exchange for all the suffering they have endured since the war is to add insult to injury," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director for Human Rights Watch. "When will Iraqi officials learn that silencing the voice of the people is only a formula for strife?"
In recent months, public frustration has mounted across Iraq at the government's inability to provide sufficient electricity and other basic services. With as little as a few hours of electricity a day in many areas, and with summer temperatures soaring to 50 degrees Celsius, demonstrations broke out across the country in June. The protests in Basra culminated on June 19, when security forces killed two protesters and wounded two others after demonstrators tried to force their way into the provincial council building.
Other demonstrations started to spring up around Iraq with some turning violent, injuring some protesters and police. In an attempt to calm public furor, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki replaced the electricity minister, and several government officials promised to improve services and to investigate the lethal actions by security forces. However, behind the scenes, Iraqi authorities have moved to prevent other demonstrations and to target organizers for arrest or harassment.
Sources: Human Rights Watch
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