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The Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG) armed forces fired rubber and live bullets and teargas canisters at protesters in Sinjar district in northern Iraq on March 14, 2017, killing one person and wounding at least seven, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.
“KRG authorities should investigate the use of lethal force against the protesters,” the human rights watchdog said.
Three protesters told Human Rights Watch that the protesters were unarmed and peaceful when the Rojava Peshmerga forces, Syrian fighters integrated into a unit under the KRG’s Interior Ministry and stationed in Sinjar, opened fire.
They said some protesters threw rocks at the Kurdistan Democratic Party- (KDP) affiliated Rojava Peshmerga forces, but only after armed forces opened fire.
One Rojava Peshmerga commander told HRW on March 26 that a small number of protesters were armed and fired live bullets which caused the death and injuries, but this was contradicted by the other witnesses.
“We have not seen any evidence that military forces in Sinjar had a legitimate reason to fire on protesters, who presented no apparent risk to their lives or others,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“The government (KRG) should urgently investigate this apparently unwarranted use of deadly force,” she said.
Human Rights Watch has been unable to find any public statement by the authorities about the incident or explaining the use of force.
Haji Hassan, one of the protesters, said that he saw four protesters fall to the ground after being shot, including Naze Naif, 21, who he said had a bullet hole in her head and died on the spot.
Another protester said he was only a few meters from Naif when she was shot, and he grabbed her and carried her with the help of others to a car.
He said he saw another protester, a 25-year-old man, shot in his left leg, one young woman shot in her right hand, and another in her right leg.
The protesters provided Human Rights Watch with the names of four other demonstrators who were wounded and a description of their injuries.
This is just the most recent crackdown after recent clashes in Sinjar between the PKK and the Rojava Peshmerga, HRW said, in which 8 died, including one PKK-media affiliated journalist.
Kurdish media reported that starting on March 3, 2017, the PKK-affiliated Democratic Union Party’s (PYD) security forces in northern Syria detained more than 40 members of the Kurdish National Council (KNC), a Syrian Kurdish political coalition affiliated with the KRG’s President Masoud Barzani.
Moreover, many KNC offices were burned, and eventually closed down by the local security forces.
On March 4, KRG security forces and local police detained 32 unarmed protesters in Erbil at a demonstration over the recent clashes in Sinjar. According to three protesters who were arrested, 23 people were released that same day, and three more within four days, but six, all foreign nationals, are still being held, according to HRW.
Moreover, Salar Chomani, the head of the opposition party Gorran in Choman, Iraqi Kurdistan, was briefly detained by the KDP’s Asayish police for participating in a PKK-organized Newroz celebration in Qandil and released on 27 March.
“The government should ensure that arbitrary or abusive use of force and firearms by law enforcement officials is punished as a criminal offense,” HRW stated.
“KRG authorities should ensure all armed forces engaged in law enforcement duties are not using excessive force, especially lethal force, and hold accountable those who do, including commanders,” Fakih said.
Earlier the Human Rights Watch (HRW) in a statement to ARA News called on both the Kurdish PYD-led and KDP-led administrations in Iraq and Syria to release prisoners that were arrested after clashes between Kurdish forces in Sinjar on 3 March.
“We are concerned about the apparent arbitrary arrests in both Syria and the KRG [Iraqi Kurdistan] related to the Sinjar clashes,” Lama Fakih, deputy director in Human Rights Watch’s Middle East and North Africa division told ARA News in an exclusive interview.
“Arresting peaceful protestors only serves to undermine the freedom of assembly and expression. All arbitrarily held political detainees should be immediately released,” she said.
Source: ARA News
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