Iraq: Alkarama submits the case of Azmi Derri Mohamed AL HADDAR who risks a forced return to Syria to the UN


On 11 May 2023, Alkarama sent an urgent appeal to the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture calling on 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. 

Arrest and sentencing of Al Haddar 

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

Handed over to the Iraqi military, Al Haddar was forced to confess under torture that he was part of a terrorist organization, which he has always denied. He was then brought before an Iraqi court without a lawyer and sentenced to 15 years in prison after an unfair trial on the pretext of illegal border crossing and participation in a terrorist group. 

As he prepared to regain his freedom after having fully served his unjust sentence, the prison administration notified him on Monday 8 May 2023 that he would be returned to Syria as soon as he was released, which is imminent. 

Arbitrarily detained without trial in Al Rusafa prison, formerly known as "Tasfirat", a detention centre used for deportation, Al Haddar now faces the risk of deportation to Syria. 

The Special Rapporteur seized of an urgent appeal 

In order to prevent Al Haddar's forcibly return to Syria, Alkarama urgently referred the matter to the UN Special Rapporteur on torture urging Iraq to refrain from returning him in accordance with Article 3 of the Convention against Torture ratified by Iraq in 2011. 

According to the Convention, if Al Haddar is extradited to Syria, Iraq would be in breach of 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 Iraq's second periodic review, 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 adequate procedural safeguards being ensured". 

Systematic torture in Syria 

Several civil society organizations have repeatedly denounced the systematic and widespread practice of torture and ill-treatment in Syria, particularly in terrorism cases. Alkarama pointed out that the current conditions of detention in Syria amount to ill-treatment and torture, indicating that Al Haddar's right to life, health and freedom from torture would be violated if deported by the Iraqi authorities. 

A report by the Human Rights Council found that many detainees were beaten to death during interrogation or died from injuries caused by torture. 

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