Annual Report: Iraq 2013

May 23, 2013

Annual Report: Iraq 2013

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  • ‘Amer Sarbut Zaidan al-Battawi, a former bodyguard of Vice-President al-Hashemi, died in detention in March. His family alleged that marks on his body had been caused by torture. Authorities denied that his death was caused by torture and announced further investigations.
  • Samir Naji ‘Awda al-Bilawi, a pharmacist, and his 13-year-old son, Mundhir, were detained by security forces at a vehicle checkpoint in Ramadi in September. Three days later, his family learned that Samir Naji ‘Awda al-Bilawi had died in custody. Images they released to Iraqi media showed injuries to his head and both hands. Following his release, Mundhir said he and his father had been assaulted at a police station then taken to the Directorate of Counter-Crime in Ramadi and tortured, including with electric shocks. He said he was ordered to tell an investigating judge that his father was connected to a terrorist organization. Lawyers for the family were allowed to read but not copy an official autopsy report that reportedly said Samir Naji ‘Awda al-Bilawi's death was due to torture, including electric shocks. No action was known to have been taken against those responsible by the end of the year.

Counter-terror and security

The authorities arrested and detained hundreds of people on terrorism charges for their alleged participation in bomb and other attacks on security forces and civilians. Many alleged that they were tortured or otherwise ill-treated in pre-trial detention and were convicted and sentenced after unfair trials. In some cases, the authorities allowed Iraqi television stations to broadcast footage of detainees making self-incriminating statements before they were brought to trial, gravely prejudicing their right to a fair trial. Some were subsequently sentenced to death. The Ministry of Interior paraded detainees before press conferences at which they “confessed”. The Ministry also regularly uploaded detainees' “confessions” on its YouTube channel.

  • In late May, the Ministry of Interior paraded at least 16 detainees accused of belonging to an armed group linked to al-Qa'ida at a press conference and gave television stations recordings of some of them making self-incriminating statements. At the press conference, one of the detainees, Baghdad Provincial Council member Laith Mustafa al-Dulaimi, protested and shouted out that he and others had been abused.
  • Ramzi Shihab Ahmad, a 70-year-old with joint Iraqi and British nationality, was sentenced to 15 years' imprisonment on 20 June by the Resafa Criminal Court for helping to fund terrorist groups and issuing religious fatwas. The court accepted his “confession” made in pre-trial detention as evidence, despite strong indications that it was obtained through torture.

Death penalty

As in previous years, many, possibly hundreds, of people were sentenced to death, swelling the number of prisoners on death row. Most were convicted on terrorism-related charges. Ramadi's Tasfirat Prison held 33 prisoners sentenced to death during the first half of the year, 27 of whom had been convicted on terrorism charges. Trials consistently failed to meet international standards of fairness; many defendants alleged that they were tortured during interrogation in pre-trial detention and forced to “confess”.

  • Muhammad Hussain and Sohail Akram, two associates of Vice-President al-Hashemi, were sentenced to death in October after the Central Criminal Court convicted them of murdering security officers.

At least 129 prisoners were executed, more than in any year since executions resumed in 2005. The authorities sometimes carried out multiple executions; 34 prisoners were executed in one day in January and 21 prisoners, including three women, were executed in one day in August. In September at least 18 women were reported to be on death row in a prison in the al-Kadhemiya district of Baghdad.