Iraqi protesters 'did not die in vain', Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi says

New PM promises justice and compensation as he meets families of anti-government protesters

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Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi said on Friday that an independent “fact-finding” investigation has been launched to provide justice for the hundreds of people killed, wounded or kidnapped during anti-government protests that began last October.

“Investigations have begun, and we’ve established a list of victims and another for those wounded. The government will work to compensate their families,” Mr Al Kadhimi said.

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi is pictured at the prime minister's office in Baghdad, Iraq June 4, 2020.  Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/Handout via REUTERS ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi at his office in Baghdad on June 4, 2020. Reuters

The United Nations said in a report last month that it verified the deaths of 490 demonstrators and injuries to 7,783 others at protest sites across the country.

Mr Al Kadhimi met the families of the victims on Thursday and assured them “their voices will be accounted for” during the investigation.

"The demonstrators did not die in vain," Mr Al Kadhimi said while listening to the families' accounts of the suffering they have endured, according to a statement from the prime minister's office.

“Iraq has gone through difficult stages, and there are continuous challenges at all levels, and we have regretted on the security side, cases of assassinations and disappearances by armed parties,” Mr Al Kadhimi said.

He urged the public to have patience as a “careful and professional investigation is taking place to ensure justice”.

Thousands of Iraqis took to the streets in Baghdad and southern Iraq last October to protest against corruption, unemployment, poor living standards and foreign interference.

The mostly young protesters accused the political establishment of rampant corruption and demanded an end to a political system that is divided along sectarian and ethnic lines.

A government report published that same month acknowledged that authorities used excessive force in quelling the unrest.

Mr Al Kadhimi promised an "impartial and independent" investigation into the killing and abduction of protesters soon after taking office in May.

According to a UN report, abductees said they were forced into vehicles by armed or masked men near the protest sites or while on their daily routes, with none reporting appearing before a judge.

Human rights groups have said there is a high probability that those abducted by armed groups have been subjected to torture and violence.