Iraq charges five policemen following deadly suppression of protests in Nasiriyah
An Iraqi investigative committee on Wednesday charged five policemen with illegally firing on protesters in the city of Nasiriyah, while activists expressed disappointment with the report's findings.
The Iraqi Joint Operations Command issued a statement saying that the committee, which was formed to look into the suppression of protests by security forces in Nasiriyah last February had "after intense and detailed investigation reached results and recommendations, most prominently regarding those who released ammunition in violation of orders not to use live fire to disperse protesters".
Five protesters were killed and scores injured when security forces fired on protesters in Nasiriyah in the last week of February.
The southern city was one of the main centres of anti-government protests which began in Iraq in October 2019 campaigning against corruption, poor public services, and widespread poverty and unemployment.
Iraqi security forces have used lethal force to disperse the protests, killing and injuring thousands of people since 2019, although current Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi has vowed to protect the right to peaceful protest and punish members of the security forces who have killed protesters.
The five policemen have been detained and will be referred to Iraqi judicial authorities, the Joint Operations Command statement said.
It added that the policemen were arrested based on "their confessions, eyewitness testimony, video recordings".
The policemen include a lieutenant. The committee also recommended that a police colonel be investigated for failing to prevent his subordinates from carrying weapons to the protest and using them against protesters.
Protesters in Nasiriyah, however, expressed disappointment at the results of the investigation, saying that government officials and senior security officers should have been charged.
"The lack of charges against officials in the local government or senior security officers regarding these violations and massacres is a delaying tactic in the investigation," Jaber Al-Gharawi, a member of the protest coordination committee in Nasiriyah told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service.
He said that many video recordings had been sent to the investigation committee, showing that more senior police officers had been implicated in violence against protesters.