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Iraq: Moroccan Prisoner Arbitrarily Detained Could be Executed at Any Time

Abdessalam Al Bakkali

In April 2017, Abdessalam Al Bakkali was sentenced to death after a flawed trial by the Central Criminal Court of Iraq (CCCI) for alleged “terrorist acts”, for which he had already been sentenced by the US occupation forces and served his penalty. As his execution can be carried out anytime, Alkarama raised his case with Agnes Callamard, UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (SUMEX), calling for her urgent intervention with the Iraqi authorities to demand that his death sentence be annulled.

Al Bakkali, a 44-year-old Moroccan national, was arrested by the US occupation forces in Iraq in 2003, and was sentenced to seven years of imprisonment for “terrorist acts”. In July 2009, as all the other detainees held by the US in Iraq, Al Bakkali was transferred to the Iraqi authorities. Al Bakkali’s family was then informed by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) that he was expected to be released in March 2010 having completed his sentence, and sent back to Morocco.

However, Al Bakkali was never released. On the contrary, his file was reopened as the Iraqi authorities and in late November 2010, he appeared on Al Iraqiya TV and Al Arabiya, confessing to having participated to terrorist crimes. In the video aired, he showed visible signs of torture on his face and it was clear he was speaking under duress. During the same TV program, other 39 individuals were presented, together with Al Bakkali, as alleged “members of Al Qaeda”.  On 2 December 2010, in a statement criticised by the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (SRSUMEX) and the Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism (SRCT), the Iraqi Ministry of Interior Jawad Al Bolani declared that they were going to “send these criminals and our investigation to the tribunals, which will sentence them to death and proceed to their execution without delay”.

In August 2016, the CCCI opened a new trial against him on charges of terrorism, despite the fact that he had already been sentenced by the US occupation forces and served his prison term. In early May 2017, Al Bakkali’s family was also informed that the CCCI sentenced him to death in April 2017 and that he could be executed at any time. On 16 May 2017, his family wrote a letter to the Moroccan Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, and the Iraqi Embassy in Rabat, asking to be provided with official information on Al Bakkali’s legal status, but never received any answer.    

“Not only Al Bakkali was sentenced twice for the same facts, in violation of the principle of double jeopardy, but he was condemned after a heavily flawed trial: it is indeed routine practice that defendants for acts of terrorism are sentenced by the CCCI on the sole basis of confessions under torture and consequently sentenced to death under Iraqi Antiterrorism Law,” explains Inès Osman, Alkarama's Legal Officer responsible for Iraq.

Alkarama therefore called upon the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to urgently demand the Iraqi authorities to revoke Al Bakkali’s death sentence, release him and send him back to his home country, and to launch an independent, impartial and thorough investigation into his allegations of torture and to bring perpetrators to justice.

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