Death sentences for European ISIS members will be carried out: Iraqi PM

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, in an interview released by his media office on Friday, refused calls to not carry out death sentences on European Islamic State militants...

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi, in an interview released by his media office on Friday, refused calls to not carry out death sentences on European Islamic State militants found guilty in Iraqi courts.

In response to a question from a journalist, he said, “Europe has abolished the death sentence, and we appreciate that. However, in Iraq, it is still legal.” 

As of 2019, the death penalty for both civilian and military crimes has been abolished in all European states except Belarus, which is not an EU member state.

Abdul Mahdi added, “This subject is constantly debated between us, but as they are willing to protect their interests and their peoples' interests, we are as well protecting our country and our people's interests.” 

He also said that his government, “did not promise any country not to carry out the death sentence on foreign Islamic State militants,” echoing statements made in June by Iraq’s judiciary when it denied reports that Baghdad had reached a deal with France for the reversal of death penalties handed down to 11 French nationals for their membership in the extremist group. 

Read More: Iraq denies reports of deal with France for commute of death sentences

“There is no deal between the Iraqi government and the French government to reduce the death penalty against those convicted,” said a spokesperson, noting that decisions of Iraqi courts “are subject to the scrutiny of the Court of Cassation only, which has the power under the law to approve or change the penalty according to the circumstances of each crime, and not based on dealings between governments.”

The statement followed reports in the media that claimed Iraq told France it would reconsider the sentences if Paris pays Baghdad millions of euros in exchange.

Iraqi courts have put on trial hundreds of foreigners, sentencing many to life in prison and others to death. 

Human rights groups have long criticized massive institutional shortcomings in the judicial process in Iraq. Since the Islamic State was militarily beaten in late 2017, rights groups and the media have documented the prominence of unfair trials against large numbers of suspects in which there is often no evidence presented and where there have been credible claims that torture had been used to extract confessions. 

After some of the French nationals claimed in court that Iraqi officials had tortured them, Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on nations not to rely on Iraq, a country notorious for its security forces' use of torture as a tool of interrogation, for impartial justice. 

Read More: HRW: French ISIS suspects allege Iraqi torture; nations should ensure fair trials

Many nations in the European Union fear that due to the lack of evidence, Islamic State supporters could be quickly released once they appear in court after returning home. As such, the notion of an international criminal court to try them either in Iraq or Syria seems to be an attractive solution for them. 

On July 29, the head of a UN team probing Islamic State crimes in Iraq called for an international tribunal similar to that in Nuremberg that prosecuted prominent Nazi figures after World War II. 

Read More: UN team probing ISIS crimes in Iraq calls for Nuremberg-style international tribunal: report

Special Advisor Karim Khan heads the United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh (UNITAD), tasked with collecting and preserving evidence of crimes perpetrated by the terrorist organization in Iraq after it took over large swaths of territory in 2014.

Khan and his almost 80-person team have been working in Iraq for about a year in this endeavor. According to AFP, they are analyzing up to 12,000 bodies exhumed from 200 mass graves left behind by the Islamic State, 600,000 videos showing the group’s crimes, and 15,000 “internal ISIS documents.” 

Editing by John J. Catherine