Iraq: UN Experts Recognise Detention of Engineering Professor Salih Al Dulaimi as Arbitrary

Salih Al Dualimi

Salih Al Dualimi, a 47-year-old professor at the College of Engineering, University of Anbar, was arrested on 26 March 2015 and sentenced to death by the Iraqi Central Criminal Court on the basis of Iraq Antiterrorism Law after a deeply flawed trial. The case of Al Dulaimi is symptomatic of the systematic serious human rights violations committed in Iraq in the name of “counterterrorism” and especially the use of confessions obtained under torture and of secret evidence gained from US intelligence to arbitrarily sentence individuals to death. After a complaint sent to the independent experts of the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) by Alkarama, the latter ruled that his detention is arbitrary and requested the Iraqi authorities to immediately release him and open an investigation into his allegations of torture.

A chain of severe violations from arrest to trial

Al Dualimi was arrested on 26 March 2015 at Baghdad airport upon his arrival from a travel abroad. He was immediately brought by officers of the Iraqi Intelligence National Services to a detention centre situated in the airport. He was held there incommunicado for three months- completely cut from the outside world - and was subjected to such severe torture that he suffered from torn ligaments and internal bleeding. Despite the gravity of his injuries, Al Dulaimi was not allowed to be seen by a doctor for more than one year.

Al Dulaimi was then formally charged only on 11 August 2015, four months and a half after his arrest, in violation of international human rights standards which limit the period of time between arrest and indictment to 48 hours. Al Dulaimi was then sentenced to death by the Central Criminal Court on 12 May 2016 for “belonging to an armed terrorist organisation”, under the Iraqi Antiterrorism Law. The only pieces of evidence used against him by the judge were self-incriminating documents that Al Dulaimi was forced to sign under the brutal torture he suffered at the airport and on alleged “secret evidence” from US intelligence that Al Dulaimi was not allowed to see, let alone to challenge. When Al Dulaimi claimed that he was tortured to force him to confess to crimes he said he did not commit, the judge proceeded to call two of his torturers to testify, claiming that his confessions were genuine. Therefore and instead of dismissing the evidence as required by Iraq’s obligations under domestic and international law, the judge rejected Al Dulaimi’s torture claims, and accused him of having “self-inflicted” the wounds.

Today, Al Dulaimi is still detained in very poor conditions in the Tasferat prison near Al Shaab International Stadium in Baghdad where he was transferred after more than a year spent in the airport detention centre.

“A particularly grave miscarriage of justice”

Following Alkarama’s and Al Wissam Humanitarian Assembly’s referral of his case, the WGAD issued on 27 April 2017 its Opinion on Al Dualimi’s case, despite the Iraqi authorities' refusal to collaborate with the UN experts. In their decision, the UN experts declared Al Dulaimi's detention as arbitrary because of several violations of his fair trial rights, as enshrined in the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Iraq is party since 1971.

In particular, the WGAD stressed that “holding persons incommunicado breaches the right to challenge the lawfulness of detention before a judge”, that the treatment Al Dulaimi was subjected to reveals breaches to the prohibition of torture and that the “death sentenced passed against Al Dulaimi based on confessions extracted under torture is a particularly grave miscarriage of justice”. They moreover called upon the Iraqi authorities to “adopt effective measures to guarantee that coerced confessions or statements are inadmissible in practice” and reminded the Government of the need to reform the broad definition of terrorist acts contained in the current Anti-terrorism law. The experts therefore demanded that Al Dulaimi be immediately released and that his allegations of torture be investigated.

“The Iraqi authorities must immediately put into practice the WGAD recommendations and release Al Dulaimi at the soonest” says Inès Osman, Alkarama's Legal Officer responsible for Iraq. "The Iraqi authorities must stop playing a deaf ear to the calls for respect of fundamental and non-derogable human rights such as the right to life and the right not to be subjected to torture”, she concluded.

During the last review of the country, the Human Rights Committee (HR Ctee) recommended the Iraqi authorities that all allegations be investigated and perpetrators brought to justice, that all judicial proceedings are conducted in full accordance with fair trial guarantees and that counter-terrorism measures be never abusively applied.

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