On the International Day of Victims of Enforced Disappearances, which draws attention to the fate of individuals detained, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory "JFO" calls on Iraqi authorities to conduct independent and effective investigations to determine the fate of journalists and defenders of human rights and freedom of expression who have disappeared in mysterious circumstances in recent years.
In October 2015, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory "JFO" and Reporters Without Borders collaborated on a report about the cases of disappearances of journalists, opinion leaders, and writers following the fall of Mosul to ISIS, where dozens remain missing without any official word on their whereabouts.
Before and after that date, the files of the forcibly disappeared journalists remained in limbo up until the point following the protests of October 2019.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhemi stated at the time that his government would work to establish a new mechanism to locate the victims of enforced disappearance. However, The Journalistic Freedoms Observatory "JFO" monitored during the current government period the lack of any progress in revealing the fate of the forcibly disappeared. JFO is surprised at the Iraqi government's failure to uphold its commitments.
Indeed, under the current government's tenure, there have been examples of journalist disappearances and kidnappings, the most recent of which was journalist Bassem Zaak.
On October 24, 2021, Zaak, a reporter for "Kol Al Arab" News Agency, made his last video appearance while documenting the tents of demonstrators in Baghdad who were denouncing the election results.
Regarding other cases of disappearance, the families of the Iraqi writers Tawfiq Al-Tamimi and Mazen Abdullatif, who were abducted in Baghdad two years ago, are still awaiting any information and findings that can shed light on their whereabouts.
Mazen Abdul Latif, an Iraqi writer working for the semi-official Iraqi Media Network, was kidnapped by a group of masked men on Al-Mutanabi Street in central Baghdad towards the end of January 2020.
About 40 days after his disappearance, Tawfiq al-Tamimi, a manager in the same network's newspaper "Al-Sabah," who continued to demand Abdul Latif's release, was kidnapped by masked gunmen on his way to work.
According to the United Nations, enforced disappearance is more than just a violation of an individual's human rights because it is frequently employed as a method to disseminate panic across society.
JFO identified the Iraqi government's lack of adherence to the Conventions and agreements that Iraq had signed. Despite Baghdad's adoption of the Convention to Protect All Persons from Enforced Disappearance by the UN at the end of 2009, no commitment to its requirements was achieved. As in the years Following the signing of the agreement, there were dozens of enforced disappearances of citizens, journalists, opinion leaders, and human rights campaigners, with no genuine attempt to uncover their fate.
Article 1 of the convention prohibits enforced disappearances; no exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat of war, internal political instability, or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification for enforced disappearance.
Article 3 of the convention obligates Iraq to take appropriate measures to investigate acts defined in article 2 committed by persons or groups of persons acting without the authorization, support or acquiescence of the State and to bring those responsible to justice".
However, in the years after the convention's signing, Iraq has taken no tangible or significant steps to investigate incidents of enforced disappearance, a blatant violation of the Iraqi government's commitment to international conventions.
According to Reporters Without Borders, Iraq is ranked 172 (out of 180 nations) on the World Press Freedom Index for 2022.
JFO documented apparent negligence on the part of the Iraqi government managing the file of the forcibly disappeared, as well as deficiency in how the international community handled this complex and sensitive case.