SULAIMANI – Consulates from four European countries in Erbil met on Sunday (February 21) with Kurdistan Region’s Independent Human Rights Commission amid deteriorating state of human rights and after the government’s prosecution of five journalists and activists.
Consulates of France, Britain, Germany, and Netherlands in Erbil met with the watchdog group “to discuss the trials against journalists and wider issues of freedom of the press and expression in KRI,” UK Deputy Consul General Mel Smart said on her official twitter account.
An Erbil court on February 16 convicted five journalists and activists of “endangering national security” and sentenced each of them to six years in prison.
The defendants all denied the charges against them and lawyer for the cases Bashdar Hasan lamented a “bad” ruling, saying the charges had “previously been decided.”
Kurdish parliament member, Ali Hama Salih who attended the court hearing, said the trial was “so unfair” and that the charges were “politically motivated.”
According to a readout of the meeting from the watchdog group, during the meeting both sides “discussed the state of human rights in the Kurdistan Region in general, and especially freedom of speech, highlighting the recent incidents regarding the detention of a number of Badinan journalists and the decision of an Erbil court about their cases.”
“The delegation asked questions regarding freedom of expression, media work and journalists’ rights in the Kurdistan Region,” Independent Human Rights Commission said in the statement.
More than 60 journalists, activists and political opposition figures are in the Kurdistan Democratic Party-held prisons in Duhok and Badinan, without charge or trial for periods ranging from several weeks to a year.
In its year-end report, the Metro Center documented nearly 400 violations were committed against journalists and media outlets in the Kurdistan Region in 2020.
The violations included 74 arrests without a warrant, 163 detentions, the shuttering of four offices of broadcasters, and 42 cases of confiscation of journalists’ equipment.