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Appeal for International Solidarity to Protect Freedom of Expression in Iraq

The Iraqi Civil Society Solidarity Initiative (ICSSI) launched the campaign "Protect Iraqi Human Rights Defenders Now!" to support freedom of expression and freedom of the press throughout all of Iraq, and especially in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), where they are under attack today. The attacks on Human Rights Defenders, in particular journalists and activists reporting on government corruption, Turkish bombing, and human rights violations in the region, are escalating at an alarming scale. Five of them - Sherwan Sherwani, Hariwan Essa, Guhdar Zebari, Shvan Saeed, and Eyaz Karam - have been sentenced to six years in prison on made-up charges of "destabilizing the security and stability of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq"; other nine journalists will stand trial in July.

Their sentences were handed down after a highly irregular trial in which their lawyers were denied access to the evidence against the accused. Furthermore, all five defendants claimed in court that members of the Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG's) security and intelligence agency had extorted their "confessions" under torture.

The ICSSI and the campaign "Protect Iraqi HRDs NOW!" recognize that Human Rights Defenders in Iraqi Kurdistan and elsewhere in Iraq face huge risks for their purely nonviolent, human rights activities. Therefore, in order to stop the criminalization of HRDs by the KRG and the Iraqi government, the campaign calls for international participation of civil society and organizations concerned with human rights and freedom of the press to be present during the trial as international observers, to ensure fair legal proceedings.

For more information, please visit the ICSSI website and the link to the campaign.