Iraq detaining thousands in ‘degrading’ conditions: human rights group

Residents look at printed profiles of Daesh group members released by Iraqi authorities on February 6, 2018. As much as 20,000 prisoners are being held in Iraq for alleged Daesh links. (AFP)
Updated 04 July 2019

Iraq detaining thousands in ‘degrading’ conditions: human rights group

  • Iraq declared victory over the Daesh group in late 2017 but has continued to carry out arrests of suspected Daesh members
  • The government does not provide figures on detention centers or prisoners

BAGHDAD: Human Rights Watch slammed Iraq’s prison authorities on Thursday for detaining several thousand men, women and children in overcrowded and “degrading” conditions that amount to ill treatment.
The rights group said it had acquired photographs from Tal Keif prison in Nineveh province that suggested it, along with the nearby Faisaliyah and Tasfirat facility, did not fit basic international standards.
One photograph depicted dozens of teenage boys packed into a juvenile detention center, some in fetal positions.
The floor was not visible amid the sea of limbs.
Another showed a room full of women and gaunt toddlers, with clothes and plastic houseware goods hung from the walls.
“Two years ago, we documented deaths in custody simply because of overcrowding,” said HRW Iraq researcher Belkis Wille.
“To see these kinds of conditions persist means the prison population is still under threat. It’s incredibly frustrating,” she said.
According to HRW, Tal Keif, Faisaliyah and Tasfirat were holding about 4,500 people, mostly on terrorism charges, nearly double their combined capacity of 2,500.
Nearly a third of detainees had already been convicted and should have been transferred from the three northern prisons to Baghdad, some as long as six months ago.
Legal advocates have no access to their clients, partly because the prisons have no space for meetings, according to a leading Iraqi specialist who visited the prisons and provided HRW with the photographs.
Iraq declared victory over the Daesh group in late 2017 but has continued to carry out arrests of suspected Daesh members, including in Nineveh province and its capital Mosul, once Daesh’s main Iraqi bastion.
The government does not provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, but some studies estimate 20,000 are being held for alleged Daesh links.
The prison system has long been fiercely criticized for its abysmal conditions, with security forces accused of torturing prisoners to extract confessions.
Such abuse could lead to the radicalization of vulnerable prisoners, analysts have warned.
“The authorities should ensure that the conditions in Iraq’s prisons do not foster more grievances in the future,” said HRW’s acting regional director Lama Fakih.
HRW urged Iraq to improve conditions to meet international standards and guarantee due process for detainees.


Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

Updated 13 min 25 sec ago

Macron slams Turkey’s aggression in Syria as ‘madness’, bewails NATO inaction

  • EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities as demanded by the US is not a genuine cease-fire
  • He calls on Ankara to immediately stop military operations,

BRUSSELS/ANKARA: Macron critizes Turkey's aggression in Syria as "madness', bewails NATO inaction

France’s President Emmanuel Macron has bemoaned Turkey’s offensive into northern Syria as “madness” and decried NATO’s inability to react to the assault as a “serious mistake.”

“It weakens our credibility in finding partners on the ground who will be by our side and who think they will be protected in the long term. So that raises questions about how NATO functions.”

EU Council President Donald Tusk said the halt of Turkish hostilities is not a genuine cease-fire and called on Ankara to immediately stop military operations in Syria.

Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syria analyst at the International Crisis Group, said the cease-fire had unclear goals. 

There was no mention of the scope of the area that would be under Turkish control and, despite US Vice President Mike Pence referring to a 20-mile zone, the length of the zone remains ambiguous, she said.

Selim Sazak, a doctoral researcher at Brown University, believed the agreement would be implemented and the YPG would withdraw.

“The agency of the YPG is fairly limited. If the deal collapses because of the YPG, it’s actually all the better for Ankara,” he told Arab News. “What Ankara originally wanted was to take all of the belt into its control and eliminate as many of the YPG forces as possible. Instead, the YPG is withdrawing with a portion of its forces and its territory intact. Had the deal collapsed because of the YPG, Ankara would have reason to push forward, this time with much more legitimacy.”