Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Marta Hurtado
Date: 7 February 2020
We are alarmed at the escalation in violence in the central Iraqi city of Najaf on 5 February when supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr allegedly shot dead anti-Government demonstrators. This latest incident again raises serious concerns about the Government's ongoing inability to fulfil its obligation under international law to protect demonstrators from attacks by so-called 'militia'.
On 5 February, witnesses said armed men affiliated to Muqtada al-Sadr shot at protesters in Sadreen square in Najaf. At least seven people were killed and over 75 others injured, and demonstrator's tents were set on fire. The incident followed an earlier attempt to "storm" the protest site on 3 February. While police attempted to de-escalate the situation initially, security forces were ultimately unable to protect protesters.
On 6 February, armed men affiliated to Muqtada al-Sadr attacked protesters in a square in the nearby city of Karbala with automatic rifles, batons and knives, shooting at and injuring two demonstrators and one police officer. They beat three protesters and tore up tents. The Iraqi army was reportedly present but did not intervene and Riot Police were called.
We reiterate our call on the Government to ensure the safety of peaceful protesters at all times.
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