On October 24, 2021, journalist Bassem al-Zaak was abducted while he was live-streaming a sit-in organized by a political bloc in Baghdad, in his capacity as a journalist, to protest the results of the parliamentary elections. His family believe that his abductors are members of the Popular Mobilization Units, a large, well-established network of militia groups and that are legally considered part of the Iraqi Armed Forces. More than two years later, his fate and whereabouts remain unknown. Iraqi authorities must reveal his fate and whereabouts and hold those found to be responsible for his enforced disappearance accountable in fair trials.
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I am deeply concerned that journalist Bassem al-Zaak’s fate and whereabouts remain unknown more than two years after he was forcibly disappeared. Iraqi authorities have failed to make progress in an investigation into his enforced disappearance. On October 24, 2021, Bassem al-Zaak was abducted from the Jadriya district of Baghdad by individuals reportedly belonging to the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), a large network of militias legally considered part of the Iraqi Armed Forces. Bassem al-Zaak was livestreaming a sit-in to protest the 2021 parliamentary election results.
The judiciary opened an investigation into Bassem al-Zaak’s disappearance on October 27, 2021, but it has delivered no results to date. In November 2021, the Kidnapping Unit of the Ministry of Defense confirmed to them that Bassem al-Zaak was taken by individuals from the PMU but said that since the PMU is an official body of the state, they could not investigate further. In December 2022, the legal department of the Ministry of Interior circulated a letter to all its departments requesting information on Bassem al-Zaak, but all of them reported he was not in their custody.
We urge you to order a prompt, independent, and impartial investigation to reveal the fate and whereabouts of Bassem al-Zaak and hold those found responsible for his enforced disappearance accountable in fair trials that meet international standards. The authorities must also ensure that Bassem alZaak’s family are protected from reprisals and extortion for demanding justice.