Middle East & North Africa

Petition: Enforced disappearance of Iraqi citizens must end

After decades of conflict and human rights violations, Iraq has a very high number of missing
persons. The number of missing persons ranges from 250,000 to a million people, according to
the International Committee on Missing Persons.
Following the 2014 ISIS takeover of large areas in Iraq, the enforced disappearance of thousands
of civilians increased. This does not include those who were forcibly disappeared by pro-
governmental armed militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, as well as those who were
held earlier by US forces without charges or trial, who numbered about 23,000 people.
As of now, the fate of thousands of civilians, activists and peaceful opponents who were forcibly
disappeared by Iraqi forces and armed militias is unknown. There are reports that some are held in
secret detention throughout the country with no access to their families or legal counseling, while
others have been buried in mass graves, without the knowledge of their families. As a result, their
families continue to live in suffering and uncertainty over the fate of their loved ones, in light of
international reports suggesting that many of these missing persons were executed and secretly
Reports indicate that Iraq has become the country with one of the largest number of missing
persons in the world, and enforced disappearance has become part of a wide pattern in Iraq, noting
that Iraqi authorities have repeatedly failed to respond to requests to disclose information about
missing persons.
This alarming issue of forced disappearances in Iraq becomes all the more concerning in light of
the ongoing Iraqi protests that started in October 2019. Protesters have faced government
suppression, police brutality and arrests, and the fate of several Iraqis including journalists,
activists and human rights defenders has become unknown. This, for instance, includes human
rights lawyer Ali Jaseb Hattab al-Heliji, who was kidnapped by an armed group in Amara city
on 07 October 2019; writer Mazen Latif, who was kidnapped in Baghdad by a group of gunmen
in civilian clothes on 31 January 2020; journalist Tawfiq al-Tamimi, who was kidnapped by an
unknown armed group in Baghdad on 09 March 2020; and civil society activist Abdulmasih
Romeo Jean Sarkis, who was arbitrarily arrested without a warrant by the riot police in Baghdad
on 29 March 2020.
In May, the new Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, ordered the Ministry of Interior to
reveal the fate and whereabouts of thousands of forcibly disappeared persons during the war
against ISIS. Welcoming this step, we call on the Iraqi authorities to exert maximum and genuine
efforts to put an end to the widespread violations of the disappeared and their families’
fundamental rights, by revealing their fate, ensuring the safety of those alive and working on their
immediate release.
We, the undersigned, demand that the Iraqi authorities:
1. End enforced disappearances in Iraq and open a thorough investigation to ensure that this
practice, which violates Iraqi and international laws, ceases to exist.
2. Disclose the fate of forcibly disappeared persons, and guarantee the immediate release of
those alive and held without charges.
3. Allow those currently in secret detention to receive fair trial, visits from their families and
meetings with their lawyers.
4. Dismantle armed militias in Iraq that are operating outside the framework of the Iraqi legal
and state structure.
We also urge the international community to pressure the Iraqi government to shed light on the
fate of forcibly disappeared persons.
Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Monitor
Euro-Mediterranean Federation against Enforced Disappearances
American Center For Justice(ACJ)
Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR)
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI)
Gulf-European Center for Human Rights
The Arab Observatory for Trade Union Rights and Freedoms
Iraqi Warcrimes Documentation Center
Baghdad Center for Human Rights
International Alliance for Human Rights and Development (AHRD)
Geneva Council For Rights And Liberties
Andalus Institute for Tolerance and anti-Violence Studies
The Arab Alliance for the Arab Court of Human Rights
Free Voice Organization
The Lebanese Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (LIFE)
The Universal Message of Human Rights Org
Ahwaz Organization for the Defence of Human Rights (AODHR)
Yemeni Alliance for Human Rights
Abductees’ Mothers Association-yemen
The Francophone Association for Human Rights
Palestinian Human Rights Organization (PHRO)
Bahrain Human Rights Watch Society
Jardin des disparus Geneva
Sumernas Center for Human Rights (SHRN)
ImpACT International for Human Rights Policies
Solidarity Human Rights
HuMENA for Human Rights and Civic Engagement
SAM for Rights and Liberties
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