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Torture in Kurdish Iraq


Human Rights Watch (HRW) has issued a report detailing torture and other human rights abuses in Kurdish Iraq at the hands of the Kurdish security forces known as Asayish:

During interviews at Asayish detention facilities, detainees told Human Rights Watch that Asayish agents had beat them with metal rods and other implements, put them in stress positions for prolonged periods, and kept them blindfolded and handcuffed continuously for several days at a time. The vast majority of detainees with whom Human Rights Watch spoke also reported that they were held in solitary confinement for extended periods. With some exceptions, Human Rights Watch found that conditions of detention at Asayish facilities were severely overcrowded and unhygienic.

Human Rights Watch also found that the Asayish are holding hundreds of detainees in legal limbo without basic due-process rights, including the right to challenge their detention. In the vast majority of Asayish detainee cases that Human Rights Watch investigated, the Kurdistan authorities have not charged detainees with offenses, allowed them access to their relatives or a lawyer, brought them before an investigative judge, provided a mechanism by which they could appeal their detentions, or brought them to trial within a reasonable time period.

Human Rights Watch also investigated several cases in which Kurdish authorities had apparently held hostage relatives of individuals sought for terror-related offenses. In other cases, convicted prisoners had already served their sentences but remained in prison, and detainees who had been tried and acquitted continued to be held. Most had no knowledge of their legal status, how long they would continue to be held, or what was to become of them.

While still nominally part of federal Iraq, the Kurdish areas have been running their own affairs for a long time now and have achieved de facto independence (the flag of Kurdistan is shown above). Unfortunately, the government that has emerged in the new Kurdistan fails to respect basic human rights and has been implicated in the arrest and beatings of journalists as well. It appears we have been unsuccessful in implanting respect for the rule of law, freedom of the press and the basic traditions of democracy and human rights in Kurdistan.

This is just one more in a long list of missed opportunities during the last 6 years.

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Editors: Lee Ward, Larkin, Paul S Hooson, and Steve Crickmore

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