News

May 5, 2020

Murder investigations must be reopened after Kurdish parties accuse each other

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the judicial authorities in northern Iraq’s autonomous Kurdistan region to urgently reopen the investigations into two unsolved murders of journalists after each of the region’s two most powerful political parties blamed one of these murders on the other.

These extremely serious accusation were made in the run-up to the tenth anniversary of the discovery of Iraqi Kurdish journalist Sardasht Osman’s body in the city of Mosul on 5 May 2010. The two parties are the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), led by the Talabany family, and the currently ruling Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), controlled by the Barzani family.

 

The PUK-linked counter-terrorism services issued a statement accusing the current prime minister, Masrour Barzani, of masterminding Osman’s ten-year-old murder.

 

Previously, the government’s security services issued a communiqué accusing PUK vice-president Lahur Talabany and his brothers of ordering the murder of Amanj Babany, the host of the the NRT television programme “Without Borders,” and his wife in October 2019.  At the time, the authorities claimed that Babany killed his wife during an argument and then shot himself.

 

“The murder accusations that emerged during the commemoration of a journalist’s murder are much too serious not to be followed up,” said Sabrina Bennoui, the head of RSF’s Middle East desk. “After these outrageous statements, issued in an attempt to settle scores, the judicial authorities must intervene as a matter of urgency, reopening investigations that are worthy of the name and putting an end to the lies and impunity.”

 

The Osman family has always disputed the findings of the Kurdish Regional Government’s official enquiry, which blamed Osman’s murder on a radical Islamist group. RSF visited Iraqi Kurdistan in July 2010 and met with members of the commission of enquiry. The report that RSF issued in November 2010 criticized the flagrant lack of transparency surrounding the investigation.

 

The claims that Babany shot his wife and then killed himself were questioned by many journalists and politicians at the time and were contradicted by NRT’s own reporting from the scene of the shooting.

 

Iraq is ranked 162nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.