Iraq executes 21 convicted of ‘terrorism’ at notorious Nasiriyah prison

Iraqi Special Operations Forces arrest a person suspected of being a Daesh militant in western Mosul, Iraq, February 26, 2017. (Reuters)
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Updated 16 November 2020

Iraq executes 21 convicted of ‘terrorism’ at notorious Nasiriyah prison

  • The Iraqi men had all been convicted under a 2005 Counter-Terrorism Law, which carries the death penalty
  • Iraqis fearfully refer to Nasiriyah jail as Al-Hut, or the whale, a vast prison complex that ‘swallows people up’

NASIRIYAH, Iraq: Iraq executed 21 men convicted of “terrorism” Monday at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in the country’s south, medical and police sources said.

The Iraqi men from various provinces had all been convicted under a 2005 Counter-Terrorism Law, which carries the death penalty, but there were no details on their specific crimes.

They were hanged in Nasiriyah prison in Dhi Qar province, the only one in Iraq that carries out capital punishment.

It is known for holding condemned ex-officials of the Saddam Hussein regime, which was toppled by the 2003 US-led invasion. Saddam himself was hanged in December 2006.

Iraqis fearfully refer to Nasiriyah jail as Al-Hut, or the whale, a vast prison complex that “swallows people up.”

Since declaring the Daesh group defeated in late 2017, Iraq has condemned hundreds of its own citizens to death for membership of the extremist faction.

But only a small proportion of the sentences have been carried out, as they must be approved by the country’s president, currently Barham Saleh.

Police sources confirmed to AFP that Saleh had signed off on Monday’s executions.

Iraq’s courts have also tried dozens of foreign nationals for alleged Daesh membership, condemning 11 French citizens and one Belgian national to death.

Those sentences have not been carried out.

Iraq ranks fifth among countries that carry out death sentences, according to Amnesty International, which documented 100 executions in the country in 2019.

That amounts to one out of seven executions across the world last year.

Amnesty and other advocacy groups accuse Iraq’s justice system of corruption, of carrying out rushed trials using circumstantial evidence and failing to allow the accused a proper defense or access to lawyers.

They also condemn cramped conditions in detention centers, where cells built to hold around 20 detainees are often packed with 50, a source working in the jails told AFP.

Those arrested for petty crimes are often held with hardened extremists, which has facilitated radicalization in the past, experts said.

Iraq’s government has declined to provide figures on detention centers or prisoners, including how many are facing terrorism-related charges, although some studies estimate 20,000 are being held for purported Daesh links.

Some facilities have shut down in recent years, including Baghdad’s Abu Ghraib complex that became infamous for prisoner abuse during the US-led occupation.

Others were rocked by riots and prison breaks that allowed detainees accused of “terrorism” to escape.

Many women whose husbands, brothers or sons were suspected extremist fighters still live in displacement camps around the country.

They have very little freedom of movement, even to access health care or schooling for their children, with NGOs condemning the settlements as “prison camps.”

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

Updated 24 November 2020

German defense minister rejects Turkey complaint over Libya weapons ship search

  • Germany insists it acted correctly in boarding a Turkish ship to enforce arms embargo of Libya
  • Turkey summoned European diplomats to complain at the operation

BERLIN: Germany’s defense minister on Tuesday rejected Turkey’s complaints over the search of a Turkish freighter in the Mediterranean Sea by a German frigate participating in a European mission, insisting that German sailors acted correctly.
Sunday’s incident prompted Turkey to summon diplomats representing the European Union, Germany and Italy and assert that the Libya-bound freighter Rosaline-A was subjected to an “illegal” search by personnel from the German frigate Hamburg. The German ship is part of the European Union’s Irini naval mission, which is enforcing an arms embargo against Libya.
German officials say that the order to board the ship came from Irini’s headquarters in Rome and that Turkey protested while the team was on board. The search was then ended.
Turkey says the search was “unauthorized and conducted by force.”
German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer backed the German crew’s actions.
“It is important to me to make really clear that the Bundeswehr soldiers behaved completely correctly,” she said during an appearance in Berlin. “They did what is asked of them in the framework of the European Irini mandate.”
“That there is this debate with the Turkish side points to one of the fundamental problems of this European mission,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added, without elaborating. “But it is very important to me to say clearly here that there are no grounds for these accusations that are now being made against the soldiers.”
This was the second incident between Turkey and naval forces from a NATO ally enforcing an arms blockade against Libya.
In June, NATO launched an investigation over an incident between Turkish warships and a French naval vessel in the Mediterranean, after France said one of its frigates was “lit up” three times by Turkish naval targeting radar when it tried to approach a Turkish civilian ship suspected of involvement in arms trafficking.
Turkey supports a UN-backed government in Tripoli against rival forces based in the country’s east. It has complained that the EU naval operation focuses its efforts too much on the Tripoli administration and turns a blind eye to weapons sent to the eastern-based forces.
In Ankara, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said that Irini was “flawed from the onset.”
“It is not based on firm international legal foundations,” Akar said. He renewed Turkey’s criticism of the German ship’s actions.
“The incident was against international laws and practices. It was wrong,” he said.
Kramp-Karrenbauer stressed that “Turkey is still an important partner for us in NATO.” Turkey being outside the military alliance would make the situation even more difficult, she argued, and Turkish soldiers are “absolutely reliable partners” in NATO missions.
But she conceded that Turkey poses “a big challenge” because of how its domestic politics have developed and because it has its “own agenda, which is difficult to reconcile with European questions in particular.”