U.N. condemns violent crackdown on protesters in Iraq

BAGHDAD – On Monday, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General of the U.N. in Iraq, Genin Hennes-Blaschart, condemned the use of hunting rifles loaded with bird shot against peaceful demonstrators in Baghdad and urged the government to ensure the safety of protesters.

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) said, for its part, that it had received reliable reports of protesters being targeted with hunting rifles, stones, and Molotov cocktails on the 14th, 15th, and 16th of February. At least 50 protesters were injured in this period.

In a statement, UNAMI added that at least 150 people had been wounded in Karbala in January because of the use of similar methods of suppression.

“The continuing pattern of excessive use of force, in addition to the presence of unidentified mysterious armed groups and loyalties who are unclear, is a source of serious security concern, and must be addressed urgently and decisively, and the peaceful demonstrators must be protected at all times,” said Hines-Blaschart.

The Iraqi authorities have yet to issue a response to the U.N.’s comments.