US sanctions controversial deputy of Iraqi paramilitaries

The chairman of the paramilitary umbrella, the Popular Mobilization Forces, Falih Al-Fayyadh was sanctioned last Friday under the Magnitsky Act. (AFP/File)
The chairman of the paramilitary umbrella, the Popular Mobilization Forces, Falih Al-Fayyadh was sanctioned last Friday under the Magnitsky Act. (AFP/File)
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Updated 14 January 2021

US sanctions controversial deputy of Iraqi paramilitaries

US sanctions controversial deputy of Iraqi paramilitaries

BAGHDAD: The United States on Wednesday imposed sanctions on an influential Iraqi militia leader and deputy of a powerful Iran-backed umbrella of mostly Shiite paramilitary groups, designating him a global terrorist figure.
The move by the US Treasury against Abdulaziz Al-Mohammadawi, known as Abu Fadak, was expected by many Iraqi officials. It was also the second time in a week that a senior Iraqi militia official has been sanctioned.
The chairman of the paramilitary umbrella, the Popular Mobilization Forces, Falih Al-Fayyadh was sanctioned last Friday under the Magnitsky Act and accused of rights abuses against antigovernment protesters. The law allows the US to target any foreigner accused of human rights violations and corruption.
Abu Fadak, a senior figure of the Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, is also acting deputy chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces, a role he took on after a US airstrike last January in Baghdad killed the militia’s deputy head Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, a powerful founding member of Kataib Hezbollah and the lead architect of the umbrella group of paramilitaries.
Top Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander, Gen. Qassim Soleimani, was also killed in that airstrike.
Apart from being a member Kataib Hezbollah, which the US has described as an “Iran-backed terrorist organization,” the US claims Abu Fadak is working with the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s expeditionary Quds Force to “reshape official Iraqi state security institutions ... to instead support Iran’s malign activities,” according to the US State Department.
The statement said Iran-backed elements, including Kataib Hezbollah, are involved in sectarian violence and are responsible for attacks against Iraqi government facilities and diplomatic missions.
The PMF was formed in 2014 to counter the Daesh group, following a fatwa from Iraq’s top Shiite cleric Ali Al-Sistani, and was later brought under the government’s fold. Its growing influence in Iraqi affairs has alarmed the US officials who accuse it of orchestrating attacks on the American Embassy in Baghdad.
Abu Fadak was a largely unknown figure until he replaced Al-Muhandis even though some militia groups opposed his selection.
In contrast to Abu Fadak’s designation, Iraq’s Foreign Ministry promptly denounced last week’s measures against Al-Fayyadh, who is a more established political figure and a former Iraqi national security adviser. The ministry said it would follow up with the incoming Biden administration in Washington on the matter.

 

Soleimani’s shadow
Qassem Soleimani left a trail of death and destruction in his wake as head of Iran’s Quds Force … until his assassination on Jan. 3, 2020. Yet still, his legacy of murderous interference continues to haunt the region

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Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
Updated 25 January 2021

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack

Fears of Iraq execution spree after Daesh attack
  • More than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out
  • The orders came after twin suicide attacks claimed by Daesh killed 32 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD: Rights defenders fear Iraq may give the green light to a spree of executions of convicted militants in a show of strength, days after a deadly suicide attack in Baghdad.
On Sunday, an official from Iraq’s presidency told AFP more than 340 execution orders “for terrorism or criminal acts” were ready to be carried out.
“We are continuing to sign off on more,” said the official, speaking on condition of anonymity.
The orders were disclosed to AFP after twin suicide attacks claimed by the Daesh group on Thursday killed at least 32 people in a crowded open-air Baghdad market.
The blasts were a jolting reminder of the persistent threat posed by the jihadists, despite the government declaring victory over them in late 2017.
The official, along with judicial sources contacted by AFP, could not provide additional details on when the executions may take place or if they included foreigners convicted of belonging to IS.
A 2005 law carries the death penalty for anyone convicted of “terrorism,” which can include membership of an extremist group even if they are not convicted of any specific acts.
Rights groups have warned that executions were being used for political reasons.
“Leaders resort to announcements of mass executions simply to signal to the public that they’re taking... (these issues) seriously,” said Belkis Wille, senior crisis and conflict researcher at Human Rights Watch.
“The death penalty is used as a political tool more than anything else,” she told AFP on Sunday.
In mid-2018, outgoing Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi announced 13 executions under the Counter-Terror Law, and for the first time authorities published pictures of the hangings.
That came after Daesh killed eight civilians.


Since the official declaration of victory over Daesh, Iraq’s courts have sentenced hundreds to death for crimes perpetrated during the jihadists’ 2014 seizure of around a third of the country and their brutal three-year hold over cities including Mosul.
But only a small proportion of the sentences have been carried out, as they must be approved by the president.
Barham Saleh, who has held the post since 2018, is known to be personally against capital punishment, and has resisted signing execution orders in the past.
Some Iraqis took to social media to demand tougher action from Saleh after Thursday’s attack, accusing him of “not carrying out the sentences” and risking a prison break.
Despite Saleh’s moderating influence, Iraq in 2019 carried out the fourth highest number of executions among nations worldwide, after China and Iran, according to Amnesty International.
Iraq carried out 100 executions that year — one out of every seven worldwide.
Judicial sources told AFP at least 30 executions took place in 2020.
They include 21 men convicted of “terrorism” and executed at the notorious Nasiriyah prison in November.
The move sparked condemnations from the United Nations, which described the news as “deeply troubling” and called on Iraq to halt any further planned executions.


Rights groups accuse Iraq’s justice system of corruption, carrying out rushed trials on circumstantial evidence and failing to allow the accused a proper defense.
They also condemn cramped conditions in detention centers, saying those arrested for petty crimes are often held with hardened jihadists, facilitating radicalization.
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.
UN Human Rights Commissioner Michelle Bachelet said late last year that given such gaps in Iraq’s legal system, implementing capital punishment “may amount to an arbitrary deprivation of life by the State.”
Ali Bayati, a leading member of Iraq’s Human Rights Commission, told AFP the country had “limited options.”
“Capital punishment is part of the Iraqi legal system — and we do not have real rehabilitation centers,” he said.
“We lack clear guarantees and real transparency in the interrogation and ruling sessions, and in allowing human rights organizations to play their role.”