KRG Coordinator underlines KRG commitment to human rights at Geneva committee

"To combat torture, the Kurdistan Regional Government takes effective judicial and administrative measures."
Head of KRG Coordinator's Office for International Advocacy, Dr. Dindar Zebari, speaks on Wednesday during a meeting of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva, Switzerland (Photo: Screenshot/Dindar Zebari Facebook)
Head of KRG Coordinator's Office for International Advocacy, Dr. Dindar Zebari, speaks on Wednesday during a meeting of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva, Switzerland (Photo: Screenshot/Dindar Zebari Facebook)

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Head of Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) Coordinator's Office for International Advocacy, Dr. Dindar Zebari, underlined the KRG's efforts to raise accountability for torture during a meeting of the UN Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva, Switzerland, on Wednesday.

"I am leading a #KRG sub-delegation in the meetings of UN Convention Against Torture within the delegation of Iraqi Republic in Geneva, to convey KRG's efforts in raising accountability for torture," Zebari tweeted on Tuesday. "Delivering KRG stance in int platforms is essential to mold improvements promptly."

"To combat torture, the Kurdistan Regional Government takes effective judicial and administrative measures, where the Public Prosecutor Office is tasked with investigating all forms of torture in detention and correctional facilities to ensure that detainees and those convicted are not subjected to ill-treatment," Zebari said during his speech of the 1887th Meeting, 73rd Session, of the Committee Against Torture (CAT) in Geneva, Switzerland.

"Legal measures are taken against the security personnel who are involved in perpetrating torture or facilitating its occurrence," he added. "In this respect, cases that allegedly involve torture have been tackled and the legal proceedings have already taken course." 

He also noted that legal proceedings include the approval of equitable compensation for persons held too long in pre-trial detention. 

"Furthermore, legal measures were taken against a number of law enforcement officers for employing violence in dealing with inmates; the measures ranged from warnings, deprivation of allowances for consecutive months, and translocation of their duties to other administrative units," he said.

UNAMI met 60 detainees

Between January and May 2021, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) conducted more than 14 visits, during which they met with 60 detainees, the KRG official noted.

He underlined that the Detention and Prison Regulations No. 1 of 2008 remain in force, "in which a set of rights were consolidated for inmates, the most important of which are education, visits, health care and the right to home leave." 

"Procedures have been streamlined and the strict security arrangements have been eased in the reformatory facilities for observers from international and local organizations, the Independent Commission for Human Rights, and the specialized committees in the Parliament of the Kurdistan Region to visit correctional facilities and detention centers to preserve the rights of the inmates and investigate allegations of torture," he said. 

Zebari underlined that the total number of convicts in the correctional facility reached 4,922, which includes 465 women and juveniles, according to the Department of Social Reform statistics in March 2022.  

He explained that all detainees are entitled to full and inalienable rights and that the reasons behind a person's arrest are elucidated in line with the charges against them.

"Moreover, his family will be promptly informed of the place of his arrest," he said. "Aside from these basic rights, the court will appoint a lawyer to accompany the suspect throughout the investigation and trial phases, if the latter could not afford hiring one." 

The costs of appointing lawyers to the KRG amounted to more than 1.7 billion Iraqi dinars (about $1.16 million). 

"If the court upholds the innocence of the suspect, he will be compensated according to Law No.15 (2010), which stipulates compensating detainees and convicted persons in the region," Zebari underlined.

Prison overcrowding

"In order to address the problem of prison overcrowding, the regional government is working on constructing buildings with the observance of the required architectural and engineering design standards, and it has a plan to construct a building with a capacity of accommodating 5000 inmates," Zebari told the session. 

"Efforts are also underway to construct a special building for juveniles and women's correctional facilities, and 26% of the project has been implemented," he said. "In 2021 and the first three months of 2022, 167 cases of psychiatric disorders have been diagnosed, 11 cases have been cured, and the rest are still receiving treatment."

Moreover, on Apr. 19, 2022, Prime Minister Masrour Barzani ordered the opening of three psychiatric hospitals for women in the governorates of Erbil, Duhok, and Sulaimani.

Documenting ISIS crimes

Zebari also said the KRG had documented the dossiers of thousands of abductees by ISIS. 

"So far 5,170 case files are registered, of which more than 2,324 are concluded in the courts, 2,000 are still under investigation and 2,916 are registered as missing," he said. 

"Social and psychological support was provided to more than 2,234 victims," he added. "To document ISIS crimes, KRG has cooperated with United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da'esh (ISIS) (UNITAD) within the framework of the Iraqi National Coordination Committee (NCC), and succeeded in digitally archiving more than 73,912 pages for these crimes." 

ISIS abducted thousands of Yezidi civilians during its genocidal assault on Sinjar (Shingal) in August 2014, forcing boys to become child soldiers and Yezidi women into sexual slavery. Until now, many Yezidi women remain missing.

"I have to emphasize that the regional government made unrelenting efforts to liberate the kidnappees, so it sat up a committee to collect information and conduct follow up on the kidnappees dossier and earmarked a budget for this purpose," Zebari said. 

"Towards 4 February 22, 2022, 3,552 people have been rescued: of whom 1,207 are women, 339 are men, and 2,719 people are still missing," he added. 

Press freedom

Zebari noted that "judicial authorities are following up on allegations of torture against journalists, of which number of lawsuits have been filed, and 31 individuals were fined for using violence against journalists, and several cases were investigated for using violence against them." 

Abused women

The KRG official also said the government has set up four shelters for abused women, which have hosted about 2,000 female victims of abuse. 

"In addition to the citizens of the Kurdistan Region, the shelters receive displaced women and refugees, as well as foreign women residing in the region," Zebari noted. 

"In 2021, the number of female inmates in the shelters was 105, of whom 92 were citizens, 13 were foreigners, and, on the top of that, about 60 IDPs (internally displaced persons) and refugees."

Human trafficking

Zebari also pointed out that the KRG has taken many steps in combating human trafficking, including awareness and educational campaigns about the dangers of human trafficking in coordination with civil and religious organizations and research centers. 

"The concerned authorities in the government investigated 340 recruitment agencies, referred 39 companies to the court, conducted investigation with 2,026 foreign nationals, and introduced 7 awareness sessions for employees to deal with human trafficking cases, and opened a special shelter for victims of human trafficking," he said.

No death penalty

In his conclusion, Zebari also pointed out capital punishment has been suspended in the Kurdistan Region since 2008, except in rare cases. 

"Despite the issuance of death sentences against 300 defendants, their sentences have not been implemented," he said. "In 2021 only, 36 criminals were sentenced to death in Kurdistan Region according to Article 406 of the Iraqi Penal Code. The conviction of 6 persons was reduced from the death penalty to life imprisonment after appeal."