Iraq: Alkarama submits a new urgent appeal to the UN for Syrian national Azmi Al Haddar

عزمي الحدار

On 15 September 2023, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances regarding Syrian citizen arbitrarily detained in Iraq, Azmi Derri Mohamed Al Haddar, to prevent his deportation to Syria where there is a huge risk for him to be subjected to enforced disappearance, torture and even execution. 

Alkarama learned that the Iraqi authorities transferred the young Syrian, Al Haddar on 10 September 2023, from Al-Rusafa prison in Baghdad to the administrative detention center in Al Kerradi, pending his deportation to Syria. 

Iraq ratified the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance on 12 January 2010. Article 16 of the Convention prohibits the extradition of persons to countries where they may be subjected to enforced disappearance. “No State Party shall expel, deport or extradite any person to any Another State if there are good grounds for believing that the person will be a victim of enforced disappearance.” 

A previous appeal submitted by Alkarama 

On 11 May 2023, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture and invited him to urge Iraq to refrain from returning Mr. Azmi Derri Mohamed Al Haddar, a Syrian national arbitrarily detained in Al-Rusafa prison in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad. 

Al Haddar was arrested and sentenced to prison Al Haddar was born in March 1992 in a Bedouin tribe in Homs, Syria, and was arrested in December 2006, when he was only 14 years old, by US forces on the Iraqi-Syrian border. 

After being handed over to the Iraqi army, Al Haddar was forced to confess under torture that he was part of a terrorist organization, which he always vehemently denied. He then appeared before an Iraqi court without a lawyer and was sentenced to 15 years in prison after an unfair trial, under the pretext of crossing the border illegally and participating in a terrorist group. 

As he prepared to regain his freedom after having fully served his unjust sentence, the prison administration informed him on Monday 8 May 2023, that he would be imminently returned to Syria upon his release. 

Al Haddar was arbitrarily detained without trial in Al-Rusafa Prison, formerly known as Al-Tasfirat, a detention center used for deportation, before finally being transferred to the Al Kerradi administrative detention center, where he currently faces deportation to Syria. 

The Special Rapporteur receives an urgent appeal 

In order to prevent Al Haddar from being forcibly returned to Syria, Alkarama had previously urgently referred his case to the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture to urge Iraq to refrain from returning him in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention against Torture, which Iraq ratified in 2011. 

According to the Convention, if Al Haddar is extradited to Syria, Iraq will have violated its obligation not to transfer persons under its jurisdiction to a place where they would be at risk of torture and ill-treatment. 

At the end of the second periodic review of Iraq, the Committee against Torture expressed concern about, inter alia, “reports received that several persons have been returned to neighboring countries, in violation of the principle of non-refoulement, without ensuring adequate procedural safeguards.” 

Systematic torture in Syria 

Many civil society organizations have repeatedly denounced the systematic and widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment in Syria, especially in terrorism cases. Alkarama indicated that the current detention conditions in Syria amount to ill-treatment and torture, noting that Al Haddar’s right to life, health, and not to be subjected to torture will be violated if he is deported by the Iraqi authorities. 

A report by the Human Rights Council concluded that many detainees in Syria were beaten to death during interrogation or died from injuries resulting from torture. 

The report also notes that interrogators and guards in state-controlled detention centers “used horrific torture methods to kill detainees” and that “(…) some detainees died as a result of injuries sustained during torture.”