Experts of the Committee against Torture Praise Iraq’s Human Rights Training in Police and Military Colleges, Ask about Overcrowding in Prisons and the Continued Use of the Death Penalty
The Committee against Torture today concluded its consideration of the second periodic report of Iraq, with Committee Experts praising Iraq’s human rights training programmes in police and military colleges, and raising questions about overcrowding in prisons and the continued use of the death penalty.
Bakhtiyar Tuzmukhamedov, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Iraq, said that it was very impressive that several hours of training each week were dedicated to human rights modules in military and police colleges.
Liu Huawen, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Iraq, asked what efforts had been made to reduce overcrowding in prisons? He also asked if women’s prisons were managed by male staff? Another Committee Expert raised the issue of the condition of prisons for females, saying that they had old infrastructure and bad material conditions, and there was overcrowding in these prisons.
Mr. Tuzmukhamedov also raised the issue of the death penalty, asking for information on prospective legislative amendments to it. How many death sentences had been handed down in the past 18 years, he asked, and for what offences? How many capital sentences had been commuted?
Introducing the report, Salar Abdulsattar Mohammed, Minister of Justice of Iraq and head of the delegation, said that training in human rights conventions, including against torture, had become part of training programmes for public officials. The training curriculum for students in military colleges and the police was designed to enforce the principles of human rights and protect detainees from torture.
In spite of security challenges, the delegation said that Iraq had conducted human rights training courses for security personnel, aiming to put an end to human rights abuses. A Human Rights Guide had been produced by the Ministry of Defence and distributed to all military academies. There was information in this guide on the prevention of torture and enforced disappearance.
The delegation said that new prisons were being built and others enlarged in line with human rights standards. The Baghdad Central Prison, for example, had been expanded to house 15,000 inmates, and was at 95 per cent capacity.
On women’s prisons, Dindar Farzanda Zuber Zebari, Coordinator of International Recommendations of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said that in 2021, the Kurdistan Regional Government had established four female detention facilities. The delegation added that women’s prisons were all managed by female experts. No man was allowed to enter a female prison.
On the death penalty, the delegation stated that the Iraqi Government had agreed that the death penalty would be used for certain crimes, but not issued for crimes that did not violate the right to life. Terrorist crimes aimed at destabilising the State were punished with the death penalty. Retrial was available for inmates on death row, and retrial of such cases often led to commuting of death sentences. Convicts on death row were also able to request amnesty.
In concluding remarks, Claude Heller, Committee Chair, said that the Committee was very much aware of the difficult security situation faced by Iraq, and thanked the delegation for coming to Geneva to participate in the dialogue. The aim of the Committee, Mr. Heller said, was to continue its dialogue with Iraq, and guide the State in its implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Mohammed said that the dialogue reflected the Committee’s great efforts to study the implementation of the Convention in Iraq. He thanked all persons who participated in the dialogue. Iraq would respect all recommendations made by the Committee and put in place appropriate mechanisms to implement those recommendations.
The delegation of Iraq consisted of representatives from the Ministry of Justice; the Coordinator of International Recommendations of the Kurdistan Regional Government; the General-Secretariat of the Iraqi Cabinet; the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs; the Iraqi Rehabilitation Department; the Ministry of Interior; the Ministry of Defense; and the Permanent Mission of Iraq to the United Nations Office at Geneva .
The Committee will issue its concluding observations on the report of Iraq at the end of its seventy-third session on 13 May. Those, and other documents relating to the Committee’s work, including reports submitted by States parties, will be available on the session’s webpage . Summaries of the public meetings of the Committee can be found here, while webcasts of the public meetings can be found here.
The Committee has before it the second periodic report of Iraq (CAT/C/IRQ/2).
Presentation of Report
SALAR ABDULSATTAR MOHAMMED, Minister of Justice of Iraq and head of the delegation, said he would clarify the progress that Iraq had made in implementing the Convention and in protecting and promoting respect for human rights. The Government of Iraq was keen to respect its international obligations and to deal positively with the treaty bodies and their procedures.
Iraq had acted on the concluding observations that it had received from the Committee regarding its preliminary report. The current Government had a clear position on kidnapping, detention and torture, and was working tirelessly to bring those responsible to justice. The Human Rights Department within the Ministry of Justice was established in 2019 to monitor Iraq's international obligations.
The Government of Iraq had approved the National Human Rights Plan for 2021-2025, a working guide for all institutions and civil society toward enacting the recommendations of the international body dealing with human rights. The main aims of this plan were to promote the reality of human rights in Iraq, eliminate corruption, restore the national identity, strengthen the rule of law, and implement the body’s concluding observations and recommendations in cooperation with the Kurdistan region.
The judicial system enjoyed independence and impartiality. Iraqi law ensured that all persons had access to justice and imposed severe penalties on anyone who arrested a person without a warrant, tortured the accused, or coerced a confession. The judiciary provided reparations to victims and conducted confidential and thorough investigations into human rights violations.
Iraq had adopted the law on inmates and applicants no. 14 of 2018, which established legal frameworks for organising visits and monitoring correctional services by authorised authorities. An amendment to this law also gave the inspection authorities broader powers. A draft sanctions bill that considered respect for human rights standards in the light of international recommendations was also being prepared.
Following the October 2019 demonstrations, the Ministry of Justice had made great efforts to meet the demands made by demonstrators. The Supreme Judicial Council had released all arrested demonstrators as their actions were within the framework of exercising freedom of expression. The Iraqi Government had formed investigative committees and referred many of the accused public officials to the courts, which sentenced them for acts of suppression of demonstrations and excessive force.
Iraq had an open invitation to the Special Procedures to visit the country. The Special Rapporteur on torture had applied to visit Iraq, but the visit had been postponed more than once.
After discussing the preliminary report in 2015, Iraq had worked on drafting an anti-torture law to ensure that Iraqi legislation complied with relevant international standards. The Council of Ministers had also approved a legal aid bill. The Witness Protection Act of 2017 provided witnesses and prosecutors with appropriate protection to prevent threats and retaliations that could threaten the fairness of a trial.
Further, the Supreme Judicial Council had initiated investigations of sexual violence committed by ISIS terrorists and other violations against Iraqis through specialised courts. The Iraqi Women's Empowerment Service was working to combat domestic violence.
Training in human rights conventions, including against torture, had become part of training programmes for public officials. The training curriculum for students in military colleges and the police was designed to enforce the principles of human rights and protect detainees from torture. Inspections were conducted during military operations.
DINDAR FARZANDA ZUBER ZEBARI, Coordinator of International Recommendations of the Kurdistan Regional Government, said that the Kurdistan Regional Government was committed to upholding human rights. Toward that aim, it had launched the Kurdistan Regional Plan for Human Rights 2021 – 2025.
To combat torture, the Kurdistan Regional Government had taken effective judicial and administrative steps. The Public Prosecutor's Office was responsible for investigating all allegations of torture in detention, deportation and correctional centres to ensure that detainees and convicts were not ill-treated. Legal action was taken against police and security agencies if they were proven to have tortured detainees. Ten cases of alleged torture had been initiated and legal measures had been taken, including the provision of compensation for four detainees. The detention and prison system law provided detainees with the right to education, visits and health care. Procedures for international and local organizations conducting visits to detention centres had been simplified.
Arrested persons were informed of the reasons for their arrest and the charges against them. Their relatives were informed of the place of detention. If the accused person could not hire a lawyer, the court was required to secure a lawyer without the accused incurring expenses. Those suspected of involvement in terrorism cases under the age of 18 were treated as "victims of ISIS" and not as members of ISIS. Criminal proceedings were not brought against those who were younger than 11 years of age at the time of the crime.
To address the problem of prison overcrowding, the Regional Government of Kurdistan was planning to construct a new facility that would house 5,000 inmates.
Health centres had been set up in prisons and were managed by the Ministry of Health. In emergency situations, inmates were referred to hospitals. In 2020, the total number of convicts in prisons was 4,276, including women and juveniles.
The regional Government had made strenuous efforts to free persons abducted by ISIS, forming a committee to gather information and allocating a budget for this purpose.
The judiciary was following up on five allegations of torture against journalists, while 31 persons had been fined for using violence against journalists. The prosecution had filed one case against journalists.
In 2021, the Regional Government established four female detention facilities. There were 105 female inmates, including 92 nationals and 13 foreigners.
The Regional Government had taken several steps in the fight against human trafficking, including awareness and education campaigns on the dangers of human trafficking. Seven staff awareness courses had been launched to deal with human trafficking issues and shelters had been opened for victims of human trafficking.
Executions in the Kurdistan region had been suspended since 2008 except in rare cases affecting public opinion. Three hundred defendants had been sentenced to death without execution. In 2021, 36 criminals were sentenced to death in the Kurdistan region. The conviction of six persons was reduced to life imprisonment on appeal.
Questions by Committee Experts
BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that Iraq’s report and subsequent replies offered an impressive overview of achievements of Iraq with respect to the implementation of, and enhancing respect for the Convention against Torture.
The Constitution made Islam the fundamental source of law in Iraq. How did the Convention against Torture fit into this constitutional structure? What was the balance between the Convention and Islam within the current constitutional system?
Did memoranda with Sweden, Denmark or Norway provide for the return of Iraqis in violation of the principle of non-refoulement? Were similar agreements in effect with Germany and the Russian Federation? Why had Iraq not acceded to the Rome Statute and Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions?
Were there any fundamental differences between the anti-torture bill drafted by the Ministry of Justice and the bill drafted by the Human Rights Committee? Were these bills reconcilable, and what were the prospects of enactment of a bill into law? What was the definition of torture in the bills? Mr. Tuzmukhamedov asked whether internal security forces court reviewed charges of torture referred to it by the Ministry of the Interior, although the Ministry of Justice bill prohibited this. What was the role of human rights courts under the prospective bill?
The Constitution prohibited a judge from concurrently serving in judicial and legislative capacities. Were there plans to change this? What were the powers of investigating judges in the Iraqi legal system?
Could the delegation provide details of notable cases of torture and enforced disappearances and discuss their outcomes in terms of convictions, including prison terms, probations and acquittals? Inhuman treatment, including causing mental suffering, was classified under the Iraqi Criminal Code as a misdemeanour, penalised with detention of up to 1 year and/or a fine of up to 100 dinars. This was at variance with the Convention, which described such treatment as an offense of a grave and serious nature. Could the delegation explain the considerable difference in severity of penalties under the Criminal Code and the Trafficking in Persons Act, where fines may reach 25 million Dinars (16,400 Swiss francs) and life imprisonment?
What were capital offenses under Iraqi law? What laws, apart from the Criminal Code and Anti-Terrorism Act of 2005, prescribed the death penalty? Mr. Tuzmukhamedov asked for information on prospective legislative amendments affecting the death penalty. How many death sentences had been handed down in the past 18 years, and for what offenses? How many convicts were executed, how many of them remained on death row, and how many capital sentences were commuted?
Was the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights adequately funded to fulfil its mandate? What were the Commission’s priority areas, and did they include torture? Could the Commission conduct unannounced visits to places of detention? If the Commission identified a violation, including torture, could it file a complaint with the public prosecutor? Could the delegation comment on the recent prosecution of a former Commissioner Dr. Ali Akram Al-Bayati for the comments he made while still in office regarding torture in Iraq? Were victims of torture provided with remedies?
Mr. Tuzmukhamedov requested further information about training for police and military personnel to make them aware about the Convention, as well as other international legal norms. He said that it was very impressive that several hours of training each week were dedicated to the human rights module in military and police colleges.
Mr. Tuzmukhamedov also requested further information about interrogation rules, instructions, methods and practices or arrangements for custody; alternatives to pre- and post-trial detention; interrogations in prisons in Mosul in October 2019; and investigation and prosecution of serious human rights abuses by security forces and affiliated forces.
LIU HUAWEN, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur, said that there were exculpatory provisions in the Penal Code about rape and “honour” crimes. Did a contract of marriage concluded between perpetrators of rape and victims constitute grounds for suspending prosecution? What recommendations had been made by the Department for the Empowerment of Women to improve legal provisions against the discrimination of women? Why had the number of complaints regarding violence against women fallen significantly in 2021?
What were the latest developments of the Da’esh crime investigation unit’s investigations? What efforts had been made to compensate and rehabilitate the victims of the torture crimes conducted by ISIL?
Mr. Huawen commended that non-governmental organizations played an active role in Iraq and were permitted to visit prisons and detention centres and write reports if they obtained authorisation. Could examples be provided of national or international non-governmental organizations’ visits to prisons and other detention places?
What efforts had been made to reduce overcrowding in prisons? Were women’s prisons managed by male staff? Special amnesties were issued in 2020 and 2021 to reduce the pressure on capacity inside prisons in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Had the whereabouts, safety and basic living security of released persons, including children, been considered?
Another Committee Expert called for Iraq’s accession to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, the Convention Relating to the Status of Stateless Persons, the Convention on the Reduction of Statelessness, the Second Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1949 Relating to the Protection of Victims of Non-International Armed Conflict, and the Rome Statute.
What were the terms of implementation of non-refoulement as enshrined in Iraqi legislation? Did the law prevent reciprocity? Unsuccessful asylum applicants were not deported back to their country of origin, but deported to a third country. What were the criteria for determining the third country to which the unsuccessful asylum applicant was deported? What were safeguards for the unsuccessful asylum applicants?
Another Committee Expert said that prisons for females had old infrastructure and bad material conditions, and there was overcrowding in these prisons. The Expert asked for information on measures taken to improve the condition of detention centres for females. How many women and girls were detained by Iraqi security forces? How many detained women and girls attended educational programmes in prisons? What were the alternatives to detention available to women and girls? What was the situation of mothers and women with disabilities in prison, and what health services were provided to them?
Another Committee Expert asked about the responsibility of leaders regarding incidences of torture. Did they have the same liability as citizens? What conflicts or legal hurdles would have to be overcome to move forward on the Rome Statute? Accession could make a great contribution to the fight against torture.
Responses by the Delegation
In response to these questions and comments, the delegation said that the investigative judge’s authority was enshrined in the Constitution. When defendants appeared before the judge, they were presumed innocent until proven guilty. The investigative judge conducted investigations of crime scenes, collected evidence, and referred that evidence to the relevant court. An investigation could not take place without the presence of a lawyer, and the State was required to assign a lawyer to defendants who required one. Accused persons could appeal the decision of the investigative judge.
The Committee of Judges was composed of retired judges. It examined Iraqi legislation to ensure that it was in line with international standards, and issued proposals related to bills.
No expulsion could take place if there was a possibility of violation of the person’s rights in the destination country, and there had been no such cases. Agreements with Germany and the Russian Federation were still standing. Agreements with expiry dates were being reviewed and their renewal was being considered.
Iraq was examining the applicability of the international conventions raised by a Committee Expert. Experts had made proposals to accede to these international instruments, and once conditions were right, Iraq would consider doing so. The State party was also considering accession to the Optional Protocol to the Convention. A study had been submitted to the State Council in favour of acceding to these instruments.
Allegations of violations of human rights were referred to civil courts, and not to military courts. It had been agreed that the death penalty would be used for certain crimes, but would not be issued for crimes that did not violate the right to life. Terrorist crimes aimed at destabilising the State were punished with the death penalty. The death penalty was also issued for trafficking of human beings.
The Supreme Court drew on rulings by international courts regarding crimes against humanity. Amendments of the Criminal Code recommended by the Committee required considerable time. A draft law reflecting those recommendations had been created by the Ministry of Justice and was being considered.
The return of individuals to Iraq needed to be voluntary and respect the individual’s well-being. Iraq respected the principle of non-refoulment. Iraq had not acceded to the Rome Statute as it needed to reform domestic law to accommodate for some of the crimes included in the Rome Statute. Iraq planned to accede to it once preparations had been completed.
Islam was the main source of legislation in Iraq. However, all religions were treated equally before the law, and all persons were free to worship regardless of their religion. Victims of discrimination based on religion were entitled to compensation. The Convention had legal status in Iraq, as Iraq had ratified the Convention.
The law on fines had been amended, and all fines had been increased. Minimum fines for minor offenses had been raised to one million dinars, and for major crimes to 10 million dinars. The judge decided on the amount of the fine.
There was cooperation between international organizations and the State regarding visits to correctional facilities. Visits were carried out with the permission of the State. The State was in correspondence with international organizations to facilitate visits and streamline visiting procedures. The detention centres of the State guaranteed the rehabilitation of detainees and the quality of detention facilities. Social workers had been trained to provide appropriate support for mothers in prison. There were fewer than five persons with disabilities detained in prisons, and these persons were provided with appropriate support. The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights was providing guidance regarding upholding human rights in prisons. Monitoring committees had made several visits to examine preventative measures related to COVID-19. The State had devised a plan to improve juvenile detention facilities and improve training for persons working in juvenile detention centres.
New prisons were being built and others enlarged in line with human rights standards. The Baghdad Central Prison, for example, had been expanded to house 15,000 inmates, and was at 95 per cent capacity. A rehabilitation facility for drug addicts was also being constructed.
All police stations were subject to monitoring from the Ministry of the Interior. Complaints of torture were received and legal actions were taken in response to those complaints. Perpetrators were referred to courts regardless of their rank. Law enforcement entities cooperated with investigations.
The right to peacefully protest was guaranteed under the Constitution. Police officers were instructed to respect human rights and not use excessive force. Allegations of the use of excessive force were duly investigated, and police officers had been arrested for such violations. Many members of the Ministry of the Interior had been killed in protests in 2019, as had many civilians.
Training courses on protecting human rights and preventing human trafficking were conducted for active police officers and in police academies.
The law prohibited the extradition of a refugee to their own State under any circumstances. Refugees not recognised by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees could request to be repatriated to a third country, and such requests were examined by the Standing Committee of Refugees in the Ministry of the Interior. Decisions on repatriation could be challenged.
Iraqi legislation was clear on the subject of gender orientation. No gender orientation was punished unless the orientation involved sodomy. Iraqi society rejected certain orientations, but laws did not contain discrimination against them. Acts of hate speech and threats against gender orientation groups were punished by the Government.
In August 2014, Da’esh targeted minorities in many areas of Iraq, and sexual violence was committed against residents in these regions. Almost 6,000 people were abducted in these incidents. Iraq had since introduced the female survivors’ law, which provided support services and compensation to child and women victims. A committee had been formed to examine the requests of female victims. A support branch had been established in the Sinjar region due to the large number of victims in that region. The Ministry of the Interior also provided identification cards to victims free of charge. Health care treatment and a salary was provided to victims. Online support workshops had also been held. Compensation had been provided to victims’ families. A file on female victims was also being compiled.
The first draft of a domestic violence law had been prepared in 2020 and was being examined by Parliament. The Prime Minister’s office had created a committee for women’s affairs to follow-up on that law. Amendments to the Criminal Code eliminating discriminatory clauses and bringing the Code in line with international standards had also been prepared. These amendments removed mitigating clauses for a husband’s act of rape and violence against his wife. A judge could approve the marriage of a female minor of 15 years of age if she was found to be biologically fit for marriage; 5.2 per cent of female minors were married. No person could be forced into marriage, and parties coercing forced marriages were fined. An investigating court examined domestic violence.
A plan had been developed to protect women and girls in conflict zones. The State had run training courses for judges and police on domestic violence. Two gender-based violence centres had been opened this year, and more were planned in the near future. Iraq had also developed a strategy to combat gender-based violence and female suicide. Under this plan, information campaigns on gender-based violence were carried out, and media outlets were provided with instructions on the portrayal of gender-based violence.
Numerous schools had been established in regions affected by terrorism to support girls’ education. Scholarships were also being provided for women and girls to support their education. A centre for psychological support had been established to support victims of terrorism. The Government had closed all camps for internally displaced persons and referred families living in those camps to health centres as needed; 125 families had been transferred from Al-Hawl camp in Syria, and the State was working to return these people to their regions of origin. Food support was also provided to displaced persons.
All data concerning prisoners was entered into a State computer system. Fingerprints were collected and saved within case files on this system.
Female prisons were all managed by female experts. No man was allowed to enter a female prison.
The State was in the process of building new prisons and expanding existing prisons to solve the problem of overcrowding.
There were 171 mothers in prison, including victims and accomplices of Da’esh. Arts and crafts workshops and literacy education was provided to women in prisons. Mothers’ rights were respected in prisons, and their needs were met. Children under the age of one stayed with their mothers. The State provided support for children whose mothers were imprisoned.
There were no cases of torture in Iraqi prisons. Any complaints of torture were examined by the Human Rights Commission and the Office of the Public Prosecutor.
To combat the spread of COVID-19, a unit had been established to raise awareness about the pandemic in prisons. Sterilisation products had been supplied to prisons, movement inside prisons had been reduced, and masks were made compulsory. Vaccines were provided and administered, and PCR tests were carried out as needed. People who failed to comply with these measures were fined. Persons who tested positive were placed in quarantine. Visits were organised by ad-hoc committees to supervise preventive measures. Awareness-raising programmes on COVID-19 were conducted, with posters placed in all prisons. The number of prisoners who tested positive was registered in a database. A unit had been set up that provided psychosocial support to prisoners. There were around 196 prisoners with disabilities, and their health needs were attended to by health care workers. The State maintained contact with the families of released patients to monitor their health condition.
Another unit had been established to monitor the situation of juveniles in juvenile detention centres. Shelters were provided for juveniles who would be homeless after being released. Juveniles had also been provided with training programmes to facilitate their entry into the workforce. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime had requested to visit juvenile detention centres, and the State planned to permit these visits.
Mitigating circumstances needed to be line with the commission of the crime, and there were exceptions to each circumstance. If a murder crime had been committed for the purification of honour, the death penalty was reduced. However, there were exceptions to this.
In spite of Iraq’s security challenges, the State had conducted human rights training courses for security personnel, aiming to put an end to human rights abuses. Training courses were held by leaders of military units. A Human Rights Guide had been produced by the Ministry of Defence and distributed to all military academies. Daily training on this guide was provided throughout students’ final year at this academy. There was information in this guide on the prevention of torture and enforced disappearance. The rights of combatants and prisoners were also examined in these training courses.
The State had conducted training to increase the number of educators who could lead the human rights courses. Instruction on how to deal with complaints was also provided. Guidelines for military personnel on how to behave outside of combat had been drafted and 450,000 copies of these guidelines had been printed and would be disseminated to all military personnel. Posters had also been made displaying legal provisions regarding detention and arrests. The Directorate of Human Rights within the Ministry of Defence led training programmes.
Security forces were committed to the constitutional provisions of Iraq, which prohibited all forms of torture. Those proven to be involved in torture were sent to civilian courts, and were provided with legal guarantees such as the appointment of a lawyer. Forms were issued to detainees to ensure that they had not been subjected to torture. Detainees could communicate with the outside world. Periodical inspections were carried out to ensure that human rights were not being abused. In cases where torture was verified, perpetrators were duly punished.
The application of article 130 proved that Iraq had a highly advanced Criminal Code that provided appropriate protections both to victims and perpetrators of crimes. Two hundred death sentences had been commuted to lesser penalties on the basis of this article.
The Convention against Torture could be applied directly in Iraqi courts. Public officials charged with torture were not allowed to participate in investigations, and were suspended from their work during the investigation period.
Human rights training was part of the curriculum in the judicial academy. Judges also joined training workshops on human rights after they started working.
Dr. Ali Akram Al-Bayati had made press releases that were considered as libel against a specific Government department, but the case against him had been dropped. Article 416 was found to be unconstitutional, and members of the High Commission had been stripped of their immunity. This topic was being investigated and the delegation could not comment on it further.
Visits to detention centres required prior authorisation, however there was a draft law that aimed to change this.
The law covered issues such as enforced disappearances and disabilities occurring in conflict. Reparations were provided to persons who sustained disabilities in conflict. The Commission could visit prisons and hold confidential discussions with prisoners and prison staff. It aimed to protect the human rights of all prisoners, and all citizens of Iraq.
Certain laws covering arrests strictly stated that an arrest warrant was required, and only the police were allowed to collect evidence.
The judiciary had been granted 1.7 billion dinars for lawyers to support detainees.
Police stations were required to designate lawyers for detainees who requested them.
The death penalty was applied in extreme cases of terrorism only. It had been handed down in 300 cases, but most cases had since been commuted.
Security forces were duty bound to provide security during demonstrations. In an incident where demonstrators had attacked police officers in the north of Iraq, 18 demonstrators were arrested and found to be carrying weapons. The Government considered this to be violence and not demonstration.
All citizens were entitled to know what information the Government collected on them, and so the Kurdistan Government had introduced a law that made this information publicly available.
When Government forces were accused of detaining journalists, investigations were held. Investigations were also held to examine allegations of libel by journalists. Fines had been handed down for persons who committed violence against journalists.
The law to combat domestic violence set forth that honour could not be invoked for any violence perpetrated against women. There was also a strategy to combat violence against women in the Kurdistan region. In 2021, there had been 11,000 divorces. Complaints of violence against women had increased, as more women were aware of their right to file a complaint. The Kurdistan Government had cooperated with international organizations to hold workshops on preventing violence against women and ending female genital mutilation. Legal measures had been taken to punish perpetrators of forced marriage, violence against women and female genital mutilation. In 2020, there were 52 women and children detained on terrorism charges, and 132 women were convicted on terrorism charges. A specific criminal court had been established to oversee cases of crimes committed by Da’esh.
The Government had provided support to internally displaced persons to return to their areas of origin. The threat of terrorism still existed, with 257 attacks occurring against liberated areas in 2021. An act on social rehabilitation provided detainees with the right to education and rehabilitation.
The Kurdistan Government had constructed a new detention facility to house 5,000 inmates, and more facilities were being constructed.
The Government had made strenuous efforts to allow international organizations to access detention facilities. One hundred and thirty-six detainees had been provided with access to education courses.
Questions by Committee Experts
BAKHTIYAR TUZMUKHAMEDOV, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Iraq, asked what the place of international treaties was, the Convention against Torture in particular, in the Iraqi constitutional system? Could the Convention take precedence over domestic laws? Which authority decided on the compatibility of international treaties with Islam?
What were the qualifications of the committee of retired judges established by the Supreme Judicial Council that enabled them to elaborate on compliance of domestic legislation with international law? What were the general qualifications required of Iraqi judges?
Would the competing anti-torture bills be reconciled, or would one take precedence?
The State party had said that inspectors were required to visit detention facilities within agreed timelines. Did this mean that unannounced visits were not possible?
Addressing the case of Dr. Ali Akram Al-Bayati, Mr. Tuzmukhamedov asked for clarification regarding the immunity of Human Rights Commissioners.
Were there any women and juveniles on death row? How many convicts were executed, how many of them remained on death row, and how many capital sentences had been commuted? According to information made available to the Committee, in 2018 the total number of persons sentenced to death, including under sentences that had not yet entered into force, amounted to 7,379, most of them being incarcerated at the Nasiriya Central Prison.
Allegedly, prisoners on death row in Nasiriyah Central Prison were held in deplorable material conditions, often being subjected to torture and ill-treatment, as well as being intimidated by false threats from prison guards about their imminent execution. Furthermore, families seemingly had not been notified prior to executions of their relatives. Mr. Tuzmukhamedov asked the delegation to comment on reported instances of executions of persons convicted of capital offenses in Kurdistan in 2015 and 2016.
LIU HUAWEN, Committee Expert and Country Co-Rapporteur for Iraq, asked for clarification regarding the role of investigative judges, who acted both as investigating authorities and as judges. The same investigative judge also was responsible for investigating torture claims, which cast doubt on the impartiality of such examinations. Mr. Huawen asked the delegation to comment on reports received that suggested that detainees often did not lodge complaints on torture due to fear of retaliation.
The general amnesty law provided for the right to petition for a retrial. Could the State party provide any examples when that provision was effectively applied in cases of coerced confessions?
Mr. Huawen asked for information on the relevant ministry or authority that exercised jurisdiction over detention facilities. He also requested more information on the investigation of allegations of torture at the former Al-Muthanna military airport in West Baghdad.
Mr. Huawen further said that there was a lack of information on the investigations carried out concerning the causes of deaths in custody, and requested more information on deaths in custody.
He said that the Yazidi female survivors' law was a positive step forward, but noted shortcomings regarding this legislation. For example, male victims and victims from some minority backgrounds were not included in the law and the issue of children born of rape was not addressed. What measures were in place to improve the legislation and increase funding?
What action had been taken by the State in response to the complaints received by the Supreme Judicial Council from female victims of violence? Mr. Huawen called for statistics on responses and their outcomes.
Could the delegation comment on reports suggesting that persons in custody, including women, children, and lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender persons were subject to torture or ill-treatment?
Mr. Huawen also called for comment on reports that victims were excluded from participating in trials of ISIL crimes, thus hindering their right to redress. Reports also suggested that Iraq’s overly broad definition of terrorism in the Anti-Terrorism Act fell short of international standards. Were there plans to amend this?
The investigations of the Fact-Finding Committee on 2020 protests had not been made public and reports suggested limited progress on investigations and few convictions handed down to date. Could the delegation comment on this.
The minimum age of criminal responsibility, which was currently nine years of age, was subject to a pending amendment to 11 years. Was the State party planning to increase the age of criminal responsibility in line with international standards?
Corporal punishment of children was still allowed under the Penal Code and applied in various settings, including homes, schools, day care and alternative care settings. Were there plans to prohibit corporal punishment of children?
Another Committee Expert asked for the nationalities of foreign persons sentenced to the death penalty, the reasons for executions, and measures taken to commute such penalties and allow foreign persons to serve their sentences in their home countries.
A Committee Expert asked for clarification regarding the condition of detention facilities for women. The Expert commended the adoption of the Yazidi female survivors’ law, and asked what the budget was that had been allocated to enacting it. The Expert also asked for clarification regarding the measures that it provided in support of victims.
Responses by the Delegation
Iraq was considering several draft laws and legal amendments, including a law intending to document and punish the crimes of Da’esh, in keeping with a Security Council resolution. A law on violence against women was also being prepared.
Retired judges continued to exercise their functions in neighbouring States, but not in Iraq. Sharia was not the sole source of law in Iraq. In addition to the Sharia, Iraqi legislation was based on the Egyptian Civil Code and the French Civil Code. It was also based on customary Iraqi law. In certain cases, Iraq adopted laws that ran counter to the Sharia. The law governing child custody was based on the Egyptian Civil Code, and its provisions differed from those of Sharia law.
Prospective judges needed to have a university degree and to have a sound character. The law guaranteed the independence of judges. Applicants had to sit written and oral exams to gain entry into the judiciary, and attended two years of training at a judicial college.
Courts handed out decisions based on the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, and a law on polygamy had been revised to make it compatible with this Convention.
A judge was obliged to be impartial in all trials, including torture trials, and victims had the right to appeal and ask for a referral of the case to a different judge if they suspected bias. An oversight committee could remove judges that showed a lack of independence. There was also the possibility of a retrial in torture cases.
Retrial was also available for inmates on death row, and retrial of such cases often led to commuting of death sentences. The court of appeal gave convicts the possibility to appeal death sentences. Convicts on death row were also able to request amnesty. The State had not executed death sentences on Da’esh members, and was paying for their living costs in prisons. No foreigners had been sentenced to the death penalty in the past three years, and all death sentences for foreigners had been commuted.
CLAUDE HELLER, Committee Chair, said that the Committee was very much aware of the difficult security situation faced by Iraq, and thanked the delegation for coming to Geneva to participate in the dialogue. The aim of the Committee was to continue its dialogue with Iraq, and guide the State in its implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
SALAR ABDULSATTAR MOHAMMED, Minister of Justice of Iraq and head of the delegation, said that the dialogue had reflected the Committee’s great efforts to study the implementation of the Convention in Iraq. He thanked all persons who participated in the dialogue. Iraq would respect all recommendations made by the Committee and put in place appropriate mechanisms to implement those recommendations.
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