Iraqi security forces have repeatedly beaten and violently dispersed protesters during anti-corruption demonstrations since August 2015 without any apparent justification, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Friday:
In some instances, unidentified men in civilian clothes abducted and beat demonstrators. Prosecutors have failed to respond to judicial complaints lodged by victims of these attacks.
“Men claiming to be intelligence officers are attacking and abducting peaceful demonstrators and prosecutors don’t investigate,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “Prime Minister Abadi’s endorsement of the protesters’ anti-corruption demands seems not to have reached the security forces.”
On September 18, three groups of men in civilian clothes grabbed, beat, and carried off three activists after they left a demonstration in Tahrir Square in Baghdad, all three activists told Human Rights Watch. The incidents, at about 7:30 p.m., took place between Saadoun and Abu Nuwwas Streets and in plain sight of uniformed Iraqi soldiers operating two nearby checkpoints.
The men first abducted Ali Hashim, a 37-year-old local activist. A second group beat and then dragged away Imad Taha, 50, who ran toward Hashim’s cries for help. And the third stopped and seized Dhirgham Muhsin, 28, as he went toward where he heard Taha being beaten. All three were forced into a Ford pick-up, blindfolded, and handcuffed from behind, then driven to a building a few minutes away, all three told Human Rights Watch.
Once there, they were searched and taken to separate rooms. Hashim said that a man who did not identify himself interrogated him while he was blindfolded and bound him, demanding to know whether he and his fellow protesters were members of the extremist group Islamic State, also known as ISIS, and about an alleged plot to infiltrate Baghdad’s International Zone.