Iraq: Saudi refugee detained in Al Nasiriyah prison at high risk of torture
Ayesh Al Harby, a 41 year-old Saudi refugee, has been repeatedly detained and tortured in Iraq since his first arrest in July 2005. In 2009, he was sentenced by Al Rusafa court, Baghdad, to 15 years imprisonment following a grossly unfair trial. Ayesh and fifty eight other Saudi prisoners were transferred mid-March from Al Rusafa Prison to Al Nasiriyah, a maximum security prison located 300 km south-east of Baghdad, following a decision issued by the Ministry of Justice. Numerous former detainees report that conditions of detention in Al Nasiriyah prison remain very poor and that prisoners are systematically tortured on a daily basis. Fearing for Ayesh's physical and mental integrity, Alkarama solicited today the urgent intervention of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture with the Iraqi authorities to ensure that he is not tortured, in line with Iraq's obligation under the Convention against Torture.
Ayesh was among those responsible for diverting a Saudi Airways airplane from Jeddah to Baghdad in September 2000, together with Faisal Naji Hamoud Al Bilawi, reportedly to protest the dire human rights situation in Saudi Arabia. After arriving in Baghdad, they were granted political asylum in Iraq, although the Saudi authorities requested their extradition. After the US invasion and the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Mr Al Harby's associate, Mr Al Bilawi, was forcibly returned to Saudi Arabia in unclear circumstances, where he was put on trial. He seems to have been subjected to torture and sentenced to death, but the judgement has not been implemented yet and he remains in detention to this date, 10 years after his initial arrest.
On 17 July 2005, Mr Al Harby was arrested by the United States Armed Forces in Baghdad, detained and tortured for three years, without charges or trial. He was then released on 27 September 2008. On 17 July 2009, Mr Al Harby was again arrested, this time by forces under the control of the Iraqi Ministry of Interior, and again suffered severe torture. He was then sentenced by the Al Rusafa Court in Baghdad to 15 years in prison following a grossly unfair trial on charges of terrorism-related activities and belonging to armed groups in 2006, in spite of the fact that the Iraqi authorities knew he had been detained by the US Armed Forces at the time.
In July 2013, he was transferred to a section of Al Rusafa Prison, Bagdad, where detainees are usually held in the period leading up to a transfer to the authority of a different State, be this in form of an expulsion or an extradition. Therefore, Mr Al Harby feared he would be extradited to Saudi Arabia, where he would face torture and even capital punishment. In addition, Mr Al Harby reported particularly inhuman detention conditions at the section of Al Rusafa Prison.
At the end of February, the Iraqi Ministry of Justice issued a decision ordering the transfer of 59 Saudi detainees, including Mr Al Harby, from Al Rusafa Prison to Al Nasiriyah, a maximum security prison located 300 km south-east of Baghdad.
Following this, Mr Al Harby and other Saudi detainees were therefore transferred from Al Rusafa to Al Nasiriyah prison in mid-March, where they remain detained to date.
Alkarama has gathered several testimonies, including from individuals detained in Al Nasiriyah and recently released, echoing a pattern of cruel and inhuman treatment and poor conditions of detention. They all reported having been subjected to severe torture and other ill treatment, often on a daily basis. In particular, prisoners are being repeatedly beaten up with cables on different parts of their bodies.
Many detainees in Iraqi prisons have been executed by co-detainees or in dubious circumstances which heightens our fear that Mr Harby is being continuously subjected to torture and other cruel treatment, to the extent that even his life is at risk.
Today, Alkarama solicited the urgent intervention of the UN Special Rapporteur on torture with the Iraqi authorities to ensure that Mr Al Harby is not tortured, in line with Iraq's obligation under the Convention against Torture, and to improve his conditions of detention accordingly with the Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners and article 10 of the ICCPR.