Creating new perspectives since 2009

HRW: ‘Flawed’ trial of suspected Daesh fighters sentences doctors to death

December 5, 2017 at 4:55 pm

Fighters against Daesh hold up a Daesh flag in Mosul after the city was liberated from the terrorist organisation [PaulGrantBilous/Twitter]

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has condemned the Iraqi government and Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) for conducting “flawed” trials that undermine efforts to bring Daesh suspects to justice.

The rights group said that it had found “serious legal shortcomings” in its investigation based on information gathered in Erbil, Nineveh governorate, and Baghdad from November 2016 to July 2017, following interviews with at least 100 families of Daesh suspects, as well as representative of international nongovernmental organisations working on justice issues in Iraq, local lawyers, and other legal experts.

The report, which will be presented to government officials at roundtables in Erbil and Baghdad, found that the Iraqi government and KRG have no national strategy to prioritise prosecutions of those responsible for the worst abuses. The result, according to Middle East Director at HRW, Sarah Leah Whitson, is that “the Iraqi justice is failing to distinguish between the culpability of doctors who protected lives under ISIS [Daesh] rule and those responsible for crimes against humanity.”

HRW, said that it had “identified at least 7,374 people who have faced these charges since 2014, with 92 sentenced to death and executed.” The total number of people held as Daesh suspects is estimated to be at least 20,000. The report raised concerns over the due process in the screening of Daesh suspects and discovered that Iraqi authorities were detaining Daesh suspects in overcrowded and in some cases inhuman conditions and failed to segregate children from adult detainees.

Read: Iraqi forces mop up Daesh holdouts in Nineveh province

Concerns were raised over the Iraqi government’s use of counter terrorism laws, which enabled judges to charge suspects not implicated in specific violent acts, but alleged only to have been Daesh members or to have only assisted Daesh. Individuals who reportedly worked in hospitals or as cooks were facing the death penalty, HRW said.

To illustrate the lack of strategy in prosecuting the worst offenders, the report cited a senior judge who told HRW that he had sentenced a Daesh cook to death. “How could the ISIS [Daesh] fighter have executed someone if he had not been fed a good meal the night before?” said the judge.

Iraq’s handling of ISIS [Daesh] trials are a missed opportunity to show its people, the world, and indeed ISIS that it is a nation ruled by laws, due process, and justice, capable of bringing accountability for the gravest crimes and reconciliation for all of the communities affected by this war

said Whitson.

HRW recommended the Iraqi government to “drop charges against those whose functions under ISIS [Daesh] contributed to the protection of human rights of civilians, such as individuals providing healthcare or other welfare services”. It further advised the authorities to consider an alternative programme to aid the return of children to society as an alternative to detention and criminal prosecution.