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UN Concerned about Dire Conditions at Detention Centers in Iraq

UN Concerned about Dire Conditions at Detention Centers in Iraq

Wednesday, 4 August, 2021 - 08:45
In this July 18, 2017 file photo, suspected ISIS members sit inside a small room in a prison south of Mosul, Iraq. (AP)

A report issued by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) on human rights painted a bleak picture of justice in Iraq and the legal requirements to prevent torture and ill-treatment in places of detention and investigation.

UNAMI expressed its concern about the interrogation rooms and detention centers in Iraq, the accused’s inability to obtain an appropriate defense, and the lack of transparency regarding the security services.

The international concern came in light of the many reports of the death of detainees inside the investigation and police stations due to ill-treatment and physical torture.

The report of UNAMI and the UN Human Rights Office, entitled “Human Rights in the Administration of Justice in Iraq: legal conditions and procedural safeguards to prevent torture,” provides an analysis of risk factors for torture and ill-treatment during interrogations and in places of detention in Iraq and Kurdistan, noting concern that the most fundamental legal conditions and procedural safeguards are routinely not respected.

“No circumstances, however exceptional, justify torture or any form of impunity,” said Special Representative for Iraq of the United Nations Secretary-General, Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert.

“I encourage increased efforts towards prevention and accountability, in line with Iraq’s obligations under international and domestic law,” she added.

The report covers the period from July 1, 2019 to April 30, 2021. It is based on interviews conducted with 235 people deprived of their liberty, as well as with prison staff, judges, lawyers, and families of detainees, among others.

More than half of all the detainees interviewed by UNAMI/OHCHR for the report provided credible and reliable accounts of torture, consistent with patterns and trends documented in the past.

The report’s findings raise serious concerns that most fundamental legal conditions and procedural safeguards as set out in the international and Iraqi legal framework are routinely not respected.

This, according to the report, raises concerns about the lack of adequate legal oversight to address the reality of interrogation rooms and places of detention, perpetuating the cycle of compliance and denial.

“By enabling the realities of interrogation rooms and places of detention to be hidden from effective legal oversight, a cycle of acquiescence and denial is being perpetuated.”

However, experience has shown that using torture and other forms of ill-treatment as a tool for obtaining confessions is a dangerous paradigm. Besides being illegal and immoral, it is also an unreliable and ineffective tool for gathering accurate information.

Danielle Bell, Chief of UNAMI’s Human Rights Office and Iraq Representative, United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), said that Iraq’s commitments to protect human rights and promote sustainable development are inextricably linked.

“In this context, the effective implementation of Iraq’s Human Rights National Action Plan is critical to addressing the many underlying issues of discrimination, exclusion, powerlessness, and lack of accountability, which can undermine human dignity and prevent sustainable development.”

On Monday, the Supreme Judicial Council denounced the torture committed by some security agencies during interrogations.

The Council threatened to take legal action against the perpetrators.

The Commission on Human Rights in Iraq warned that the repeated violations in prisons and detention situations undermine Iraq’s efforts and local and international commitments.

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