Amnesty International: Excessive and lethal force use to disperse Karbala protests in Iraq

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Iraqi security forces again used excessive and lethal force to disperse crowds of largely peaceful protesters in the southern city of Karbala on October 28, said Amnesty International, after at least 14 protesters were reported killed and more than 100 injured.

Eyewitnesses account said Iraqi security forces and anti-riot police opened fire using live ammunition as well as tear gas, chasing peaceful protesters staging a sit-in at the Tarbiya roundabout on 28 October. Witnesses also said security forces attempted to run them over with vehicles.

“In horrific scenes from Karbala last night, Iraqi forces opened live fire on peaceful protesters and resorted to excessive and often lethal force to disperse them in a reckless and utterly unlawful manner. These scenes are all the more shocking as they come despite assurances from Iraqi authorities that there would be no repeat of the extreme violence used against demonstrators during protests earlier this month,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East Research Director at Amnesty International.

Wave of protests have erupted in Baghdad and other governorates across Iraq including Diwaniya, Thi Qar, Basra, Karbala, Najaf, Maysan and Babel. According to the Independent High Commission for Human Rights in Iraq, at least 77 protesters have been killed and 3,654 injured in this latest round of protests.

One eyewitness present during protests in Karbala last night told Amnesty International that security forces had attempted to chase away protesters using tear gas and batons on previous days, but that the violence used last night was far more extreme.

“Security forces opened fire on the protesters they were chasing. There was a black four-wheel drive that started to drive towards the roundabout and attempted to run over the protesters. It was complete horror. There were women and children. The children were screaming. The security forces dispersed everyone and started chasing them into the side streets,” he said.

A doctor at al-Hussein hospital in Karbala interviewed by Amnesty International said protesters arrived at the emergency room last night with shrapnel and gunshot wounds including in the leg, stomach, eye and head. The doctor added that they had also received several protesters injured due to beatings in recent days and that on 27 October security forces in plainclothes had visited the hospital and arrested around 50 people suspected of participating in protests.  “One of the protesters they took was 14 years old,” the doctor said.

Amnesty International is also calling on Iraqi authorities to end arbitrary arrests and lift the curfews imposed in several areas in the country, including Karbala. (Source: Amnesty International)

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