The Observatory has been informed about the judicial harassment of Dr. Ali Akram al-Bayati, a human rights defender, physician, and former member the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR), Iraq's national human rights institution1. Dr. Ali Akram al-Bayati has advocated for the promotion of human rights in Iraq, especially during the protests that started in October 2019. As part of his mandate under the IHCHR, Dr. al-Bayati documented human rights violations by the State and non-state actors, and was often the sole source of crucial information regarding human rights issues in the country.
On February 3, 2022, Dr. al-Bayati received a document sent by the Al Resafa Investigative Court in Baghdad informing him we was being investigated due to a case filed by Iraq's Council of Ministers Secretariat (COMSEC) under Article 434 of the Iraqi Penal Code, relating to “defamation”. The document did not mention where this accusation stemmed from. This provision is often used to silence dissidents and human rights defenders in Iraq, and carries a prison sentence of up to one year.
On February 6, 2022, Dr. al-Bayati appeared in court. He was informed that he was being investigated for statements he made on Al Ahad TV channel on December 6, 2020, that is, during his official mandate as a Commissioner, upon a complaint by the Anti-Corruption Committee, formed in 2020 by the Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to investigate cases of corruption. Dr. al-Bayati’s statements concerned IHCHR’s work documenting claims of torture by families of those detained under orders of the Anti-Corruption Committee. Dr. al-Bayati had also stated that the Committee had denied the IHCHR’s request to visit detention centers. The investigation file included no other evidence of alleged defamation. Dr. al-Bayati was released on bail the same day. The date of his next hearing is unknown.
The Observatory highlights that IHCHR’s mandate includes the documentation of alleged acts of torture and ill-treatment. Moreover, the Observatory underlines that as a member of the IHCHR, Dr. al-Bayati had immunity for the duration of his term. In this respect, this investigation against him sends a message to former and potential future IHCHR members, should the IHCHR's mandate be renewed, that they can face judicial harassment after the end of their term because of the legitimate human rights activities they have carried out in the exercise of their functions.
The Observatory recalls that Dr al-Bayati had received several threats because of his work, warning him to stop the investigations at the time the Commission was documenting the authorities' violent crackdown on protesters during the anti-government protests that began in October 2019.
The Observatory strongly condemns the judicial harassment against Dr. Ali al-Bayati, which seems to be only aimed at punishing him for his legitimate human rights activities as a member of the Iraqi national human rights institution.
The Observatory urges the Iraqi authorities to put an immediate end to all acts of harassment, including at the judicial level, against Dr. Ali al-Bayati and all human rights defenders in the country.
How You Can Help
Please write to the authorities of Iraq asking them to:
i. Guarantee in all circumstances the physical integrity and psychological well-being of Dr. Ali al-Bayati as well as that of all other human rights defenders in Iraq;
ii. Put an end to all acts of harassment – including at the judicial level – against Dr. Ali al-Bayati, IHCHR members and all other human rights defenders in Iraq, and ensure in all circumstances that they are able to carry out their legitimate activities without any hindrance and fear of reprisals.
- President of the Republic of Iraq, Mr. Barham Salih, Twitter: @BarhamSalih
- Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr. Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Twitter: @MAKadhimi
- Minister of Interior of Iraq, Mr. Othman Al-Ghanmi, Twitter: @AlghanmiOthman
- Minister of Foreign affairs of Iraq, Mr. Fuad Hussein, Twitter: @Fuad_Hussein1
- Speaker of the Council of Representatives, Mr. Mohamed Al-Halbousi, Twitter: @Parliament_iq
- Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary Mr. Mr. Abdul-Karim Hashim Mostafa, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations Office and other international organisations in Geneva, Switzerland, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Dr. Aqeel Al-MoussawiIraqi, Head of the High Commission for Human Rights, Email: info@Ihchr.iq
Please also write to the diplomatic representations of Iraq in your respective countries.