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Urgent Interventions

Iraq: New assassination of a trade union leader

Geneva - Paris, May 31, 2006. The World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), in the framework of their joint programme, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, express their deep concern regarding the assassination of Mr. Thabet Hussein Ali, Head of the General Trade Union for Health Sector Workers in Iraq.

According to the information just received from the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU), Mr. Thabet Hussein Ali was abducted on April 27, 2006 by an alleged terrorist group as he was leaving his union’s headquarters in Baghdad’s Al-Mansour neighbourhood. His body was found the next day riddled with gunshot wounds and showing evidence of brutal torture including by an electric drill.

The Observatory is deeply concerned by this new assassination of a trade union leader in Iraq, which adds to several others since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Indeed, 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. 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. Likewise, on January 4, 2005, Mr. Hadi Saleh, International Secretary of the Iraqi Federation of Trade Unions (IFTU), was brutally tortured and murdered at his Baghdad home (See Observatory Annual Report 2005). Furthermore, on January 25, 2006, Mr. Alaa Issa Khalaf, a member of the Executive Board of the Baghdad branch of the Mechanics Union, and a prominent member of the recently created General Federation of Iraqi Workers (GFIW), was shot dead by several unidentified men as he left for work from his home in Baghdad (See Observatory Urgent Appeal IRQ 001/0106/OBS 010, dated January 27, 2006).

The Observatory is very concerned that murder of labour leaders in Iraq has become a troubling trend in a country where trade unionists and human rights defenders face tremendous risks to their lives and security, and who are therefore conducting their activities in an extremely precarious situation.

As a consequence, the Observatory urges the new Iraqi government to guarantee the physical and psychological integrity of all human rights defenders working in Iraq, including trade unionists, and to conduct a fair, impartial and independent inquiry into the assassination of Mr. Thabet Hussein Ali, in order to identify the authors, bring them to justice and pronounce sentences proportional to the gravity of their crime.

More generally, the Observatory urges the authorities to ensure the implementation of the provisions of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders adopted by the UN General Assembly on December 9, 1998 and other international human rights instruments ratified by Iraq.

For more information, please contact :
OMCT : 00 41 22 809 49 39
FIDH : 00 33 1 43 55 25 18
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