HRW: Widespread violations in Iraq against IS suspects

HRW: Widespread violations in Iraq against IS suspects
The leading rights group found that Iraqi authorities were committing widespread violations against those detained on suspicion of having ties to the Islamic State
2 min read
05 December, 2017
Some 20,000 people are believed to be detained in Iraqi custody [MSF]

Thousands of people suspected of having ties to the Islamic State group are facing widespread right violations in Iraqi custody said Human Rights Watch on Tuesday.

The leading international rights group said some 20,000 people are believed to be detained in Iraqi custody on suspicion of ties to the Islamic State. Many are held in inhumane detention centres without due process according to a 76-page report.

The watchdog findings reported Iraqi federal and Kurdish regional judiciaries violations of flawed trials, arbitrary detentions and broad prosecutions.

Detainees are often tortured, not granted access to lawyers and families denied information of their whereabouts.

At least 200 have been sentence, and 92 executed.

US-backed Iraqi ground forces have arrested thousands of men, women and children since they have retaken nearly all of the previously IS-controlled territory.

The New York based group found that it was easier to prosecute IS suspects under Iraq’s counter-terrorism laws, as a court would only need to prove membership in IS, rather than ascertain that individual actions violated criminal codes.

Another concern identified was the ease in which someone could be accused of belonging to the terrorist group. Wanted lists or community accusations with no evidence can result in their detention.

An innocent person mistakenly identified as an IS member in the screening process "may spend months in mass arbitrary detention during the course of their judicial investigation."

Under counter-terrorism laws, Iraqi authorities can sentence people who worked as medics or cooks within the IS group with the same harsh penalties – including death – as IS members who carried out violent acts.

HRW said that when it raised concerns over prosecutors not charging suspects with crimes under the criminal code, judicial authorities said there was no need.

"Genocide and terrorism are the same crime, why would we need a separate charge for genocide?" the report quoted one counter-terrorism judge as saying.

Under international law, widespread and systematic extrajudicial executions carried out during conflict are considered war crimes. If carried out as part of a policy, the executions would consitute crimes against humanity. 

Iraqi government forces detained and screened men fleeing from Mosul often in informal and unidentified centres.

"If Iraqi authorities want civilians who spent over two years living under ISIS to feel safe and protected, they need to ensure that anyone responsible for murdering prisoners is brought to justice," HRW's deputy Middle East director Fakih had previously commented.