UN urges Iraqi government to protect protestors

Baghdad, Feb 12 (IANS) The UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) on Sunday expressed concern over protests in Baghdad that left several people dead and urged the Iraqi government to protect demonstrators.

At least five people were killed on Saturday amid anti-government demonstrations that called for electoral reforms in Iraq, Efe news reported.

“The right to freedom of peaceful assembly is the cornerstone of democracy and must be respected and protected by citizens, government, and security forces at all times and in all circumstances,” UNAMI said in a statement.

The note added that citizens have the right to express their opinion peacefully and the government and the security forces must respect that.

“Citizens have the right to express their opinion, to request reforms and changes, and to have their voices heard… But they must do so peacefully and in full compliance with the law,” the statement read.

“The government and security forces must respect and protect the right of citizens to stage peaceful public protests and must act with restraint,” it added.

UNAMI welcomed Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s decision to investigate the circumstances of the violent repression against Saturday’s protest, which was called by influential cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

Baghdad Governor Ali al-Tamimi said in a statement that security forces fired tear gas and live bullets when some demonstrators tried to break the security cordon.

At least four demonstrators and one policeman were killed, while 320 civilians and seven members of the security forces were wounded during the protest.