US Treasury sanctions chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Forces

Falih Al Fayyadh is accused of perpetrating human rights abuses during protests in Iraq

epa08899742 Iraqi anti-riot police forces stand guard as dozens of traders and shopkeepers take part in a protest infront of the heavily fortified gate of Iraqi central Bank, in central Baghdad, Iraq, 22 December 2020. Dozens of Iraqi traders and shopkeepers protested against the decision of the Iraqi government to devaluate the Iraqi dinar against the US dollar.  EPA/AHMED JALIL

The US Treasury Department has sanctioned one of the leaders of Iraq's Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) for "human rights abuses." Falih Al Fayyadh is the chairman of the PMF and a former national security adviser to Iraq's prime minister.

According to the Treasury Department, as leader of the PMF, Mr Al Fayyadh was involved in the violent response to peaceful protests that engulfed Iraq beginning in October 2019.

“By directing and supervising the murder of peaceful Iraqi demonstrators, Iran-aligned militants and politicians such as Falih Al Fayyadh have been waging a violent campaign against Iraqi democracy and civil society,” said Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.

While the protests have slowed due to the PMF's aggressive response and the coronavirus pandemic, they still persist. Iraqis are protesting against government corruption and mismanagement as well as the country's lagging economy and high unemployment rate.

The US Treasury said Mr Al Fayyadh was the chairman of the leadership committee of the PMF when its militias fired live ammunition on protesters "resulting in the deaths of hundreds of Iraqis."

Under the sanctions, any property or interests that Mr Al Fayyadh has in the United States will be blocked. “The United States seeks to impose tangible and significant consequences on those who commit serious human rights abuse or engage in corruption, as well as to protect the financial system of the United States from abuse by these same persons,” the Treasury statement said.