The Kazemi government came into office in 2020 promising to bring to justice those responsible for attacks upon the protest movement. The United Nations has issued several reports about how the prime minister has failed to achieve this. The latest came out in June documenting how the targeting of activists has continued even though the demonstrations have ended and that few if any people have ever been convicted of murdering protesters.
Baghdad set up a special investigative committee to look into violence against activists but it has done little. 1,106 cases were completed with no sentences while only 10 resulted in prison terms. 2 members of Thar Allah were convicted of killing a protester and wounding several others outside its headquarters in Basra in May 2020. One man was convicted of killing a father in Maysan who demanded accountability for the killers of activists. 3 SWAT were also found guilty in Basra and Wasit for killing people along with three riot police in Baghdad. An officer in the Rapid Response Force was arrested for firing into a crowd in Nasiriya and remains in jail not having gone to court yet. The commander of the 13th Hashd Brigade was arrested for assassinating a Karbala activist in May 2021 but protests by the Hashd in Baghdad’s Green Zone led to his release. A police officer from the Interior Ministry was detained for the murder of journalist-analyst Hisham al-Hashemi but he somehow disappeared. This all the government has to show for itself after two years in office. This is the reason why the United Nations has consistently criticized Kazemi. He has not fulfilled his promises to bring justice to the dead and injured. More importantly he has not deterred armed groups from continuing their attacks.
That was the report’s other major finding. From May 1, 2021 to April 30, 2022 the U.N. recorded 26 incidents against activists. That included the assassination of a Karbala protest leader in May 2021 that led to a new round of protests in that city. Two others escaped an assassination in Baghdad on the same day with one shot in the arm. In July a Baghdad activist was kidnapping for writing online about the assassination of protesters. He was tortured, questioned about links to foreign countries and then released. There was one other attempted murder, 4 other attacks, a house raid, 14 bombings, and many threats. These are the kinds of incidents that have faced demonstrators since 2019. They have not ended since.
Although the United Nations didn’t name the perpetrators these were all done by pro-Iran elements in the Hashd and security forces. Because PM Kazemi has done nothing to them, they act with impunity. This violence is a major reason why the protests ended. The endless repression took a toll and deterred many from coming out onto the streets.
Every government has tried to shut down demonstrations through force and intimidation. This time there was an orchestrated campaign by elements of the government backed by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi and Iran. If large scale demonstrations start again they will have to deal with these dangerous opposing forces.
United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, “Update on Accountability in Iraq, Limited progress towards justice for human rights violations and abuses by ‘Unidentified Armed Elements,’” June 2022