Eight violations recorded so far this year

Rights group sounds alarm over attacks on activists and journalists in Iraq

BAGHDAD — The Gulf Center for Human Rights (GCHR), which monitors violations against activists and journalists in regional countries, released a detailed report documenting eight cases in Iraq during the first quarter of 2024.

The report expressed concern over what the center deemed an escalation in violations compared to previous periods, and offered recommendations for the Iraqi government, parliament, and judiciary.

Key incidents highlighted in the report included the March 17 arrest of activist Karar Al-Zirjawi in Nasiriyah by special forces from Baghdad, following a “spurious lawsuit” filed by Iraqi parliament member Nisan Al-Zayer.

Blogger and activist Yasser Al-Jubouri, a dual Iraqi-Irish citizen, was detained by security forces on Feb. 26 reportedly without a warrant. Al-Jubouri is known for openly criticizing Iraqi authorities on his X (formerly Twitter) account. His family described his detention as an “abduction.”

Following public outcry, he was placed in Salhiya Police Station, where a lawsuit was filed against him. On Feb. 29, Prime Minister  Mohammed Shiaa’ Al-Sudani issued an order for his release and canceling all legal charges against him, following broad social media solidarity campaign.

The report also details the sentencing of civil society activist Ahmed Hussein Mahlahl to three years in prison by the Basra Criminal Court on Feb. 25 for allegedly setting fire to the Basra governorate building during a protest in 2018.

Mahlahl’s colleagues have asserted the charge against him was baseless and that he was targeted for leading popular demonstrations that demanded improved public services.

On Feb. 22, civil society activist Haider Hussein Hamid (Haider Hawija) was arrested and sentenced to six months in prison by the Dhi Qar Governorate Court of Appeal for his criticism of local officials, including a district commissioner who in turn filed several lawsuits against him. Hamid was released on March 12 following public pressure.

The report noted solidarity marches in Basra and Dhi Qar  have demanded the release of imprisoned activists and an end to retaliatory lawsuits.

GCHR also documented the arrest of political analyst Mohammed Na’naa Hassan in January based on a complaint by Prime Minister Mohammed Shiaa’ Al-Sudani over comments Hassan made during a televised program.

The arrest prompted a solidarity campaign by civil society organizations and fellow journalists including a demonstration on Jan. 16 in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, where protesters, including Hassan’s colleagues and other activists, demanded his immediate release and the protection of freedom of expression.

Hassan was freed after the Prime Minister withdrew the complaint.

The report also details a Jan. 29 assassination attempt on renowned journalist and publisher Fakhri Karim. Karim, 81, president of the Al-Mada Foundation for Media, Culture, and Arts, survived the attack.

The Al-Mada Foundation released a statement to its Facebook page that day detailing that the assassination attempt which took place in the Al-Qadisiyah area of Baghdad while Karim was returning home from the Iraq International Book Fair.

Finally, the report outlined the case of Mosul journalist Yasser Al-Hamdani, who has faced harassment and legal charges related to his reporting on corruption since 2003. The most recent complaint against him was launched in 2022.

On Feb. 21, Al-Hamdani turned himself in and wasallegedly interrogated by an investigative judge, who released him after Al-Hamdani was able to post the 3 million dinar bail.

The court, however, failed to recall the previous warrant for his arrest, resulting in his re-arrest in Erbil, where Al-Hamdani had been residing for nearly a decade.

The GCHR report called for an immediate end to attacks on activists and journalists, urging the Iraqi government to uphold its obligations to protect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly.

Fakhri Karim talks about attempt on his life

Fakhri Karim talks about attempt on his life

Iraqi politician, publisher survives assassination attempt in Baghdad

Iraqi politician, publisher survives assassination attempt in Baghdad