Iraq: Detention of envoy facilitating the repatriation of Libyan prisoners

Opening a new chapter of the issue of Arab prisoners in Iraq , the Iraqi authorities proceeded on 18 October 2012 to arrest the Libyan envoy mandated to negotiate the repatriation of the Libyan detainees in Iraq. After facilitating the release of a number of Libyans in recent months, Mr Ahmed Saleh Al Shami will now depend on similar assistance to regain his liberty. Alkarama therefore today asked the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders to request his release.
Respected for his commitment to the promotion and protection of human rights framed by his presiding over a local human rights organisation, Mr Ahmed Al Shami was approached by the Libyan foreign ministry to participate in the negotiation with the Iraqi authorities with the aim of repatriating the Libyan detainees in Iraq. In this context, the 53-year-old professor of Political Sciences repeatedly travelled to Iraq in recent months.

During his latest mission to Iraq, Mr Al Shami also met with representatives of the League of Arab States and accompanied one of them to Baghdad International Airport on 18 October 2012. While parting at the airport, agents of the Iraqi security services came and arrested him, failing to display an arrest warrant or to inform him of the reasons for his arrest. Indeed, the Iraqi authorities failed to provide information clarifying the reasons for his arrest until now, close to three weeks after Mr Al Shami's arrest. There are, however, indications that he is held because of the assistance he provided to Libyan detainees in Iraq.

Not only is Mr Al Shami's detention likely to be related to his activities as a human rights defender, but in addition, he is not allowed to call his family in Libya. He was nonetheless able to inform them of his appearance before a judicial authority on 6 November 2012 through an intermediary. It seems that on this occasion, the magistrate ordered his release because there was no evidence motivating further detention or criminal prosecution. Regardless, Mr Al Shami was taken back to Baghdad Central Prison (formerly known under the name of Abou Ghraib Prison) after the session was closed, which constitutes an act of blatant disregard of the judge's decision.

As a consequence of the facts described above, Alkarama considers that Mr Al Shami's arrest and detention constitute a grave violation of the Iraqi authorities' obligation to protect and promote the work of human rights defenders as well as their commitments under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. We call on the Iraqi authorities to ensure that Mr Al Shami be granted the full protection of the law and, in fine, be released in the shortest possible delay. Mr Al Shami's situation was also brought to the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders.
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