ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Monday expressed its concerns about the transfer of Islamic State suspects, including foreign nationals, from Syria to Iraq, highlighting the risk of torture in detention.
Last week, the US-backed Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) transferred at least 280 Islamic State prisoners to Iraq after being arrested in Syria.
The detainees were mostly Iraqi nationals, but reports indicate at least 13 French Islamic State prisoners were among them.
In late February, Iraqi President Barham Salih announced that the Iraqi judiciary would prosecute at least 13 French extremists “in accordance to the Iraqi law.”
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His statement was the first remark by an Iraqi official to publicly recognize the transfer of foreign Islamic State prisoners, which came after many European governments refused to bring home the suspects and prosecute them for joining the militant group.
“Despite Salih’s assurance that Iraq is acting within the confines of international law, the record of previous ISIS trials in Iraq shows that these transfers may instead violate it, as detainees risk torture in detention,” HRW said in a statement.
“Detainees are subject to unfair trials that could still end in the death penalty. Human Rights Watch opposes the death penalty in all countries and under all circumstances, but in Iraq, where the trials of ISIS suspects fail to meet even the most basic markers of due process, its application is particularly concerning.”
The human rights group also noted that so far, trials for Islamic State suspects in Baghdad last as short as “five minutes.”
The trials consist of a judge interviewing the suspect, usually relying on a confession, often coerced, with no effective legal representation, HRW stated, adding authorities have also made no efforts to solicit victim participation in the trials, even as witnesses.
The organization also called on France, an EU member with an important foreign policy goal of eradicating the death penalty globally, to speak out publicly as its citizens risk prosecution and death in unfair trials that deny victims their day in court.
“Any country allowing Iraq to receive and prosecute its citizens should press the government to take urgent measures to improve the quality of these prosecutions. Otherwise, it should take its nationals home and investigate and, if appropriate, prosecute them in trials that meet internationally-accepted fair trial standards,” HRW stressed.
After declaring a final military defeat against the Islamic State in late 2017, the Iraqi judiciary began to prosecute hundreds of Islamic State suspects with courts issuing death and life sentences for many detainees.
Editing by Karzan Sulaivany