ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Human Rights Watch (HRW) charged on Thursday that thousands, including children, now held in detention facilities in Iraq’s northern province of Nineveh face severe overcrowding and other extreme conditions.
“The Iraqi government urgently needs to rebuild and rehabilitate its detention facilities,” said Lama Fakih, HRW’s acting Middle East director in a new report. “Iraq has a duty to ensure that detainees are housed decently, in line with international standards.”
The international human rights watchdog's report focuses on Tal Kayf, Faisaliya, and Tasfirat, three pretrial detention facilities that have a combined maximum capacity of 2,500 people, according to a senior Iraqi penitentiary expert who spoke to HRW on condition of anonymity.
As of June, he said, they were holding almost twice that number, many on charges of terrorism.
“These prisons are meant to be a place for rehabilitation but if authorities house detainees in these kinds of conditions, I can only imagine what will happen to them after they are released,” said the expert, who added that lawyers attempting to defend clients are blocked from visiting them.
Human rights groups have criticized inconsistencies in the judicial process in Iraq and the prominence of chronically flawed and unfair trials.
Judges in Iraq often dismiss torture allegations, rampant in the country, without any investigation into the claims. HRW has documented several recent claims by Iraqis of torture, with at least two of them leading to the death of the detainees.
“Children alleged to have committed illegal acts should be treated in accordance with international juvenile justice standards,” the report continued. “International law allows for authorities to detain children pretrial in limited situations, but only if they are formally charged with committing a crime, not merely as suspects. The authorities should release all children not formally charged.”
“Concerns around overcrowding don’t solely affect the detainees, but also the community as a whole,” Fakih said. “The authorities should ensure that the conditions in Iraq’s prisons do not foster more grievances in the future.”
On June 26, HRW published another report detailing the case of a man who suffered torture while being held in a Baghdad detention facility that resulted in his arm being amputated.
According to the rights group, the detainee told his brother during a visit that authorities “hung him from his hands for three days” in an attempt to extract a confession.