Urgent Interventions

Iraq: Assassinations and kidnappings of several trade unionists


IRQ 001 / 0205 / OBS 016
Assassinations / Kidnappings

February 28, 2005

The Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), requests your urgent intervention in the following situation in Iraq.

Description of the situation:

The Observatory has been informed by the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU) of the murder of an oil trade unionist as well as of a wage of kidnappings of several trade unionists.

According to the information received, on February 18, 2005, the Iraqi labour leader Mr. Ali Hassan Abd (Abu Fahad), a prominent and outspoken member of the Oil and Gas Union, was murdered on his way home, close to the Al Dorah Oil Refinery in Baghdad. Mr. Ali Hassan Abd was one of the first activists to organise trade unions in the oil industry, encouraging union voice in a post-Saddam Iraq as early as April 2003.

The Observatory is very concerned that following the assassination of the International Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), Mr. Hadi Saleh (see background information below), the torture and murder of labour leaders in Iraq has become a troubling trend in a country where trade unionists still operate under anti-union legislation which dates back to the Saddam-era.

Moreover, the Observatory wishes to express its deep concern regarding the wave of kidnappings of Iraqi trade union leaders. For instance, according to ICFTU, Mr. Moaid Hamed, General Secretary of the Mosul branch of the IFTU, was abducted on February 11, 2005. This followed the kidnap and subsequent release of other senior trade unionists from the same organisation.

Background information:

The Observatory recalls that several Iraqi trade unionists have been murdered and kidnapped while carrying out their trade union activity. According to ICFTU, on November 3, 2004, four railroad workers were killed, and their bodies mutilated. Two more train drivers were kidnapped on December 25, 2004, and five other workers beaten. The building of the Transport and Communications Workers in central Baghdad suffered a mortar attack on December 26, 2004.

According to the information received, on January 4, 2005, Mr. Hadi Saleh was brutally tortured and murdered at his Baghdad home. Mr. Hadi Saleh, a prominent Iraqi trade unionist, had returned from exile to Iraq at the beginning of the war, to help build up a democratic trade union movement. He was allegedly killed by assassins who broke into his home. According to a report from the IFTU, Mr. Saleh was severely tortured before being put to death. Evidence of torture was visible on his head and body. His hands and legs had been tied. He was blindfolded, then strangled with electrical wire. Iraqi trade union sources believe that the atrocity was carried out by remnants of Saddam Hussein’s secret police, the Mukhabarat.

Mr. Hadi Saleh, 58, had spent five years in prison under Saddam Hussein, after being sentenced to death in 1969 for independent labour activities. After his sentence was commuted, he had fled Iraq and settled in Sweden, from where he continued to work for labour rights in Iraq. Returning to this native country at the outset of the war, in 2003, he was a founding member of the IFTU, which represents over 200,000 members in the transportation, printing, construction, oil, electricity, railways and food production industries.

Actions requested:
Please write to the Iraqi authorities urging them to:

i. take prompt action in order to locate Mr. Moaid Hamed, inform the public of his whereabouts and ensure his release;

ii. guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of Mr. Moaid Hamed, as well as of all human rights defenders working in Iraq, including trade unionists, in all circumstances;

iii. conduct a fair, impartial and independent inquiry into the assassinations of Messrs. Ali Hassan Abd (Abu Fahad), Hadi Saleh, and other labour leaders, as well as into the abduction of Mr. Moaid Hamed and attacks against trade unionists, in order to identify the authors, bring them to justice and pronounce sentences proportional to the gravity of their crimes;

iv. end all forms of harassment and ill-treatment of human rights defenders in Iraq, and guarantee in all circumstances that human rights defenders and organisations are able to carry out their work without any hindrance;

v. ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998, in particular article 1, which states that “everyone has the right, individually or in association with others, to promote and to strive for the protection and realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms at the national and international levels”, as well as article 12.2, which provides that “the State shall take all necessary measures to ensure the protection by the competent authorities of everyone, individually or 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”;

vi. guarantee the respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms in accordance with the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and other international human rights instruments ratified by Iraq.


Mr. Mukdad Hadi M. Salman, First Secretary, Permanent Mission of the Republic of Iraq to the United Nations Office in Geneva, Chemin du Petit-Saconnex 28a, 1209 Genève, Suisse, Fax: 00 41 22 733 03 26, E-mail:


Paris-Geneva, February 28, 2005

Kindly inform the Observatory of any action undertaken quoting the code number of this appeal in your reply.

The Observatory, an FIDH and OMCT venture, is dedicated to the protection of Human Rights Defenders and aims to offer them concrete support in their time of need.

To contact the Observatory, call the emergency line:
Tel and fax: FIDH : +33 (0) 1 43 55 20 11 / 43 55 18 80
Tel and fax OMCT : (+ 41 22) 809 49 39 / 809 49 29
E-mail :
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