Almost three years after his assassination analyst Hisham al-Hashemi may finally be getting justice. His killer, an officer in the Interior Ministry Ahmed al-Kenani was just given the death sentence.
Hashemi was assassinated outside his home in Baghdad in July 2020. Two months later the government of Prime Minister Mustafa l-Kazemi said the perpetrators had been identified. It was believed he was targeted by Asaib Ahl al-Haq or Kataib Hezbollah because he criticized their activities such as extorting money at checkpoints, controlling oil fields, seizing property, and gaining official positions. That led to threats from Asaib Ahl Al-Haq.
Because Hashemi’s murder was related to the government very little was done about it. It took a year for warrants to be issued for his killer and two weeks later police Lieutenant Kenani was detained. He confessed to his crime and said that he was assigned the job. Who his bosses were was not revealed, but Al Monitor reported that he left an area of Baghdad where Kataib Hezbollah has its headquarters before going to Hashemi’s home. Afterward however Kenani failed to appear in court because he couldn’t be found. This continued for months and in March 2023 a parliamentarian posted on Facebook that the lieutenant was not in custody. That raised fears that he would never be brought to justice because he was protected by the elite. It’s a minor miracle that he finally appeared before a judge. Perhaps so much time had passed that the real perpetrators feel like they can now sacrifice Kenani. He would not have been found guilty if his powerful benefactors did not agree to it.
Hashemi’s murder is just a high profile example of how the legal system is Iraq is deeply flawed and open to political interference. It took nearly three years for Hashemi’s killer to ever go to court. Surprisingly he was found guilty and given the death penalty likely because his bosses conceded to it because he no longer served any purpose. There are hundreds of other political killings that have never seen the light of day because the victims weren’t famous like Hashemi and the party bosses blocked anything from happening.
Ali, Sura, “Iraq issued arrest warrants for killers of Husham al-Hashimi: judicial council,” Rudaw, 7/8/21
Hassan, Hassan, “How Iraq’s Top ISIS Scholar Became a Target for Shiite Militias,” New Lines Magainze, 10/4/20
Kurdistan 24, “Iraq sentences killer of Hisham Al-Hashimi to death,” 5/7/23
MacDonald, Alex, “Hisham al-Hashimi: Anger and confusion in Iraq after analyst’s suspected killer disappears,” Middle East Eye, 3/29/23
Al Monitor, “Iraq arrests killer of respected analyst,” 7/17/21
NRT, “Iraq PM Announces Suspect Arrested For Murder Of Academic Hashemi,” 7/16/21
Shafaaq News, “The Iraqi government announces access to the clues of the assassination of Hisham al-Hashemi,” 9/14/20
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