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December 5, 2018

Iraq : Reopen probe into Kurdish editor’s murder five years ago, RSF says

Kawa Germyani's funerals in Kalar on December 6, 2013. (c) AFP
On the fifth anniversary of magazine editor Kawa Germyani’s murder in Iraqi Kurdistan, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Kurdish and Iraqi authorities to reopen the investigation into his death in order to identify the masterminds and, more generally, to combat impunity for crimes of violence against journalists.

The founder and editor of the magazine Rayal, Kawa Germyani was gunned down outside his home in the city of Kalar, in southwestern Iraqi Kurdistan, on 5 December 2013. At the time of his death, he had been investigating high-level political corruption in Iraqi Kurdistan and had received threats from members of the ruling Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the Sulaymaniyah region.

 

Judicial proceedings were initiated in response to complaints filed by the family against two PUK officials who had threatened to make him “pay the highest price” for his reporting, but they were closed without any action being taken. A man who initially confessed to murdering Germyani was sentenced to life imprisonment in 2015 although he had subsequently retracted.  The Germyani family is of the view that the instigators are still unpunished.

 

“We call for the investigation to be reopened in order to shed all possible light on this murder and identify the instigators,” said Sophie Anmuth, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “At the same time, we urge both the Kurdish local authorities and Iraqi national authorities not to allow impunity to take hold in the region, as this protects those groups who knowingly target journalists.”

 

The Germyani case is not an isolated one in Iraqi Kurdistan. The past ten years have seen a total of seven murders of journalists that relatives blamed on thugs or security officials linked to the region’s two ruling parties, the KDP and PUK, or to Iraqi national officials. Investigations were conducted in only two of these cases, and neither satisfied the victims’ families.

 

Soran Mama Hama and Serdasht Osman, who were murdered in 2008 and 2010 respectively, were investigating Iraqi Kurdish government corruption. Wedad Hussein, killed in 2016, and Tuba Akyilmaz (also known as Nuzhian Arhan), killed in 2017, both worked for media that support Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which the Iraqi Kurdish authorities regard as a foe.

 

Erkan Sharif, a journalist murdered in 2017, had filmed atrocities committed by pro-Iraqi government militias during the reconquest of Kirkuk area.

 

Iraq is ranked 160th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index.