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Wave of street protests in Iraq and elsewhere

UN expresses concern following wave of street protests in Iraq and elsewhere

4 October 2019

Human Rights

The United Nations is urging authorities in Iraq to allow citizens to exercise their right to freedom of expression after the security forces opened fire on mass anti-government protests which began earlier this week.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Friday called for dialogue between the Government and the demonstrators, and also expressed sadness over the loss of life.

The UN human rights office, OHCHR, said reports indicate that up to 30 people have been killed in demonstrations across the country, though this number has not been verified.

Hundreds more were reportedly injured, including members of the security forces, while dozens of demonstrators were detained, most of whom subsequently were released.

“We are worried by reports that security forces have used live ammunition and rubber bullets in some areas, and have also fired tear gas cannisters directly at protestors,” OHCHR spokesperson Marta Hurtado told journalists in Geneva on Friday.

“We call on the Iraqi Government to allow people to freely exercise their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. The use of force should be exceptional, and assemblies should ordinarily be managed without resort to force.”

Scores of Iraqis, mostly youth, have taken to the streets since Tuesday, to demand economic reforms, jobs, and reliable basic public services such as electricity and water, as well as an end to corruption.

Internet service in most governorates has also been shut down in response to the protests, according to international media reports.

“Blanket internet shutdowns are likely to contravene freedom of expression, unduly restricting the right to receive and impart information and may exacerbate tensions,” Ms. Hurtado said.

Iraq is the latest country to be rocked by protests. Since June, thousands of people in Hong Kong have been protesting against plans to allow extradition to China, while Haiti has been engulfed in anti-government protests, which escalated in recent weeks.

On Friday, the Government of Ecuador declared a national state of emergency following nationwide street protests led by transportation workers and students, over fuel price rises. Demonstrators clashed with police, who reportedly fired tear gas to disperse the crowds.

The UN chief has been following these “recent waves of street demonstrations”, expressing concern over the violence, injuries and loss of life, according to a statement issued by his Spokesperson.

Mr. Guterres underlined that the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly should be respected.

“The Secretary-General reiterates his call to security forces to act at all times with maximum restraint and to respond to any acts of violence in conformity with relevant international human rights standards on the use of force by law enforcement officials. He also calls on protestors to demonstrate peacefully and to refrain from violence,” the statement continued.

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