Iraq: 36 Speicher massacre defendants referred for trial

Iraq: 36 Speicher massacre defendants referred for trial
2 min read
11 November, 2015
Thirty-six defendants accused of involvement in the Speicher massacre will be tried on 26 November, amid concerns that their sentences will be politicised.
Iraqi Shia fighter prays at burial site believed to hold victims of Speicher massacre [AFP/Getty]

An Iraqi court has referred the files of 36 new men accused of committing the Speicher massacre to the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI), amid concerns by legal organisations that the defendants will be given death sentences.

In a statement to the press, judicial spokesman Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar said that the judicial investigative panel of the CCCI, which was formed to inquire about the massacre that was committed in Camp Speicher, has referred the defendants to the criminal court, noting that they will be tried on 26 November.

Islamic State group (IS, formerly ISIS) has - allegedly unaided - executed more than 1600 Iraqi Air Force cadets from the Iraqi Air Force - believed to have been all Shia Muslims - in an attack on Camp Speicher, north Tikrit, on 12 June, 2014. The Iraqi government has accused the Baath Party of involvement in the massacre.

For his part legal expert Salam Hasan said that the right procedures should be taken and that "the evidence should match the facts before any judgement is made that may be politically motivated."

Hasan told al-Araby al-Jadeed: "The Criminal Court had previously sentenced 24 defendants in the [Speicher massacre] in a single session, a matter that raised doubts about the neutrality and impartiality of the Iraqi judiciary."
In one session, a court in Baghdad sentenced 24 men to death by hanging on 8 July over the Camp Speicher massacre

He said that most of the accused are from Salahuddin Province (capital Tikrit - former President Saddam Hussein's hometown) and that they should be given the right to appoint a lawyer. He pointed out that "Iraqi politicians are interfering with the judiciary and sentencing, putting the entire Iraqi judicial institution under suspicion."

The head of Al-Raed, an Iraqi human rights organisation, expressed his concerns that the defendants could be given death sentences.

He told al-Araby: "Everybody, including human rights organisations know that the Speicher case has become a purely political matter, and the Iraqi judiciary is still under the control of political parties and party and militia leaders."

In one session, a court in Baghdad sentenced 24 men to death by hanging on 8 July over the Camp Speicher massacre, raising criticism over the speed of and politicising of the sentencing, particularly that some of those convicted were distant relatives of Saddam Hussein, whom reports say were not in Tikrit when the massacre occurred.

Human Rights Watch criticised the Iraqi judiciary following the July sentencing and asked the Iraqi authorities to retry the defendants.