Iraq: Kidnapping of independent journalist Afrah Shawki 

30 December, 2016

Reliable information received by the Gulf Centre for Human Rights (GCHR) confirmed that independent journalist, Afrah Shawki has been kidnapped by an armed group from her home in Baghdad.

On the evening of 26 December 2016 at 10:15pm an armed group of approximately 15 people wearing masks and military uniforms stormed the house of the journalist located in West of Baghdad. They separated the journalist from her children and confiscated her jewellery, car and laptop.  

Reports suggest that the kidnapping is related to an article she published recently which called for the State to control both the unlawful use of weapons and the various illegal armed groups.
Afrah Shawki, who is 38 years old, is an independent journalist who works at the Ministry of Culture in Iraq. She also writes regularly for some media outlets and is involved in many cultural activities.

The GCHR expresses serious concern at the kidnapping of Afrah Shawki and for her physical and psychological integrity, as her whereabouts are unknown. The GCHR believes Afrah Shawki’s kidnapping to be solely motivated by her journalistic work and views this act as part of the ongoing deterioration of Freedom of the Press in Iraq. The GCHR urges the authorities in Iraq to:

Ensure the release journalist Afrah Shawki immediately and unconditionally;
Guarantee the physical and psychological integrity and security of Afrah Shawki;
Open an immediate, independent, impartial and thorough investigation into the kidnapping of Afrah Shawki with a view to publishing the results and bringing those responsible to justice in accordance with international standards;Guarantee in all circumstances that all human rights defenders in Iraq are able to carry out their legitimate human rights activities without fear of reprisals and free of all restrictions including judicial harassment.

The GCHR respectfully reminds you that the United Nations Declaration on the Right and Responsibility of Individuals, Groups and Organs of Society to Promote and Protect Universally Recognized Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, adopted by consensus by the UN General Assembly on 9 December 1998, recognizes the legitimacy of the activities of human rights defenders, their right to freedom of association and to carry out their activities without fear of reprisals.

We would particularly draw your attention to Article 6 (c) “Everyone has the right, individually and in association with others: (c) To study, discuss, form and hold opinions on the observance, both in law and in practice, of all human rights and fundamental freedoms and, through these and other appropriate means, to draw public attention to those matters” and to Article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually and in association with others, against any violence, threats, retaliation, de facto or de jure adverse discrimination, pressure or any other arbitrary action as a consequence of his or her legitimate exercise of the rights referred to in the present Declaration”.
An earlier version of this article is cross-posted on gc4hr: The Gulf Center on Human Rights