IRAQ: The UN Committee against Torture issues its recommendations after the second review of Iraq
The UN Committee against Torture made several recommendations for the improvement of the human rights situation in Iraq following its 2nd review during the 73rd session held in Geneva between 19 April 2022 and 13 May 2022.
Composed of independent experts, the Committee against Torture monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture ratified by Iraq in 2011 through periodic reviews.
In this context, Alkarama submitted its shadow report and brought the Committee's attention to the seriousness of the human rights situation in the country, expressed its main concerns and made recommendations.
Definition and criminalization of torture
In his report, Alkarama first drew the attention of the experts to the discrepancies between the definition of torture contained in the Convention and the definition in domestic law, adding that they create a breeding ground for impunity. This was also noted by the Committee's experts who called on Iraq “to expedite the adoption of the Anti-Torture bill, ensuring it covers all the elements contained in Article 1 of the Convention". At the same time, the Committee recalled that the prohibition of torture is “absolute and non-derogable” and that any individual guilty of torture must be punished in accordance with the gravity of his act.
Procedural guarantees in detention
The experts also noted that the procedural guarantees aimed at preventing ill-treatment and torture in detention, although enshrined in Iraqi law, are not, as raised by Alkarama, respected in practice. The State party has been called upon to "Ensure that all persons deprived of their liberty are afforded in practice all fundamental legal safeguards from the very outset of their deprivation of liberty" notably the access to a lawyer and an independent medical examination, the right to inform their relatives of their detention and the right to be brought before an independent judicial authority within a reasonable time.
Confessions extracted under torture
Alkarama also warned the experts that confessions extracted under duress and torture are still admitted as evidence by Iraqi courts and that allegations of torture by the accused are, in practice, never taken into account by judges. Concerned about the admissibility of such confessions, the experts therefore asked Iraq to "provide the Committee with information on any cases in which confessions were deemed inadmissible on the grounds that they had been obtained through torture or ill-treatment, and indicate whether any officials have been prosecuted and punished for extracting such confessions”.
Unofficial places of detention
In its report to the Committee, Alkarama also mentioned the existence of unofficial places of detention indicating that it had received numerous testimonies from the families of victims of illegal and incommunicado detention in places of detention kept secret by the authorities. The Committee urged “the State party to ensure, as a matter of priority, that the national legislation is applied effectively throughout the country and immediately close all unofficial places of detention”.
Excessive use of force and repression
The experts who paid particular attention to the 2019 anti-government protests, referred to by Alkarama in his report, recommended that the State party refrain from using force during peaceful demonstrations and ensure that prompt, impartial and effective investigations are undertaken against perpetrators of violence.
The principle of non-refoulement
Finally, in its additional note submitted to the Committee, Alkarama had expressed its concerns about violations of article 3 of the Convention and the principle of non-refoulement. The Committee had been informed of the return of many people to countries in the region where there is a serious risk of torture.
In its note, Alkarama mentioned the particular case of Ayesh AL HARBY, a Saudi citizen, currently detained in Al Rusafa prison in Baghdad where he is at risk of being extradited to Saudi Arabia.
Al Harby, was arrested by the U.S. military in 2005 and was held for several years. After his release, he was again arrested by Iraqi authorities and sentenced to 15 years in prison. Al Harby and a second Saudi citizen, Faisal Al Bilawi, had political refugee status in Iraq in the 2000s.
Al Bilawi was handed over to the Saudi authorities under unclear circumstances and was executed according to his family, who have not heard from him since 2005. As for Al Harby, he was recently informed by the prison administration that he would soon be extradited.
The Committee expressed its concerns “about reports that several individuals were returned to neighboring countries in contravention of the principle of non-refoulement" called on the State party to refrain from "expel, return or extradite a person to another State where there are substantial grounds for believing that he or she would be in danger of being subjected to torture”.
The Iraqi government is requested to implement the recommendations within the time limit set by the Committee. Alkarama will monitor the effective follow-up of these recommendations and will pay particular attention to these recommendations’ implementation by the government.