‘123 people kidnapped in Iraq since beginning of protests’

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Baghdad, May 24 (IANS) A total of 123 people have been kidnapped since the anti-government protests first broke out in Iraq until March 21, the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said in a report.

The abducted people, mostly political activists before the rallies, took part in or supported demonstrations that began on October 1, 2019 and criticized the government or political groups on social media, the report issued by UNAMI on Saturday said.

All of them were kidnapped in public places near protest points or on their way to them by armed, masked men, Efe news reported citing the Mission as saying.

With their eyes covered, they were taken to one or several places, such as houses, caravans or detention camps where they remained for between one and 14 days, sometimes with other people.

All of them have been “interrogated” about their role in the protests and their links to political parties or countries, according to the report.

Men were tortured by brutal methods such as electric shocks, while women were beaten and sexually assaulted, it added.

Although the abducted were unable to identify the people who held them captive, they blamed “militias”.

UNAMI, however, talked about the possible “involvement of armed actors with high levels of organization, resources and capabilities”.

The report pointed out that the testimony of the victims and the data do not indicate that Iraqi security forces were behind the kidnaps.

However, the abductions and the death of at least 490 activists have been unpunished so far, it warned.

“The continued absence of accountability for these acts continues to contribute to the spread of impunity with regard to reports of violations and abuses,” it said.

Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, special representative of the UN Secretary-General for Iraq, welcomed promises made by the new cabinet of Mustafa Kazemi to investigate the incidents that took place during the demonstrations.

He also pledged compensation to the victims and their families and offered medical treatment to those who were injured.

The report estimated that nearly 7,800 people were wounded during the protests.

Al-Kazemi assumed office in early May after five months of disagreements that prevented the formation of a new government after Adel Abdul Mahdi stepped down as prime minister in the wake of the protests.

–IANS
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