Iraqi officials plan new security rules to avoid more 'unauthorized' arrests
ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraq’s Interior Ministry (police) and judiciary have made an agreement to establish a new mechanism for communication in an effort to control recently reported arrests in the country that the government purports were not sanctioned by the proper authorities, a security source said on Saturday.
The move comes as multiple activists, bloggers, and demonstrators were reportedly arrested in recent weeks by members of the security forces who often did not identify themselves, had no identifying insignia on their uniforms or vehicles, and were wearing masks.
One high-profile case occurred just two days ago when outspoken blogger and social media personality Shuja’ al-Khafaji was detained after posting comments about the protests that were critical of the government. According to one security analyst, the arrest was made without a warrant. Khafaji was released one day later, following negative publicity about the arrest.
A family member who spoke to Reuters on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals said Khafaji had received threats from unknown people in recent days, warning him not to publish posts about the protests.
Such arrests are not new in Iraq, but publicity about a spate of them in connection with the October protests led to a quick response by Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, who announced that he had explicitly ordered security forces to halt detentions of bloggers, activists, and protest participants.
During the recent demonstrations, at least 100 people were killed on both sides and over 6,000 injured amid a violent crackdown by the security forces. International observers and human rights organizations widely condemned the use of force.
Reuters reported on Thursday that Iran-aligned militias in the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) were responsible for multiple lethal sniper shootings during the protests, carried out after their leaders decided on their own to help put down the demonstrations.
“We have confirmed evidence that the snipers were elements of militias reporting directly to their commander instead of the chief commander of the armed forces,” said an Iraqi security source. “They belong to a group that is very close to the Iranians.”
London-based Asharq al-Awsat quoted additional security sources who also said that the Tehran-backed militias deployed the snipers. The paper is supported by Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional archrival.
Regarding Baghdad's new arrest procedures, the source told Kurdistan 24, “The Supreme Judicial Council and the Ministry of Interior agreed that all the security and military authorities must notify the Ministry of Interior with a confidential and personal letter immediately about any arrest operation carried out by these bodies.”.
The source added that this mechanism aims to “strengthen the rule of law,” noting that all arrests must be made “in accordance with the arrest warrants issued by the institutions of the Supreme Judicial Council,” which must also inform “the Ministry of Interior with the numbers of detainees and the charges against them.” He also stressed that, as per the new rules, any arrests made “outside this framework is a criminal offense punishable by law.”
Ahead of renewed protests that are scheduled to take place in a week, Abdul Mahdi on Saturday reiterated that his government was committed to improving living conditions and promised that an investigation into a previous bout of deadly demonstrations would be announced “soon.”
Editing by John J. Catherine