Iraq: Ending torture through accountability, compliance and prevention – UN
03 August 2021
BAGHDAD (3 August 2021) – Full implementation of Iraq’s protective legal framework will help prevent torture and ill-treatment, thereby building public trust in the criminal justice system, notes a UN report published on Tuesday.
The report of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), entitled “Human Rights in the Administration of Justice in Iraq: legal conditions and procedural safeguards to prevent torture and ill-treatment,” seeks to prevent torture in places of detention in Iraq, including the Kurdistan region, by identifying and reducing risk factors and eliminating possible causes.
“No circumstances, however exceptional, justify torture or any form of impunity”, said Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, Special Representative for Iraq of the United Nations Secretary-General. “I encourage increased efforts towards prevention and accountability, in line with Iraq’s obligations under international and domestic law”, she added.
The report covers the period of 1 July 2019 through 30 April 2021 and is based on interviews with 235 persons deprived of their liberty. More than half of all detainees interviewed by UNAMI/OHCHR for this report provided credible and reliable accounts of torture – consistent with patterns and trends documented in the past by UNAMI and other organisations.
The findings show that most legal conditions and procedural safeguards which could prevent torture were routinely not respected. Concern is raised about the lack of effective legal oversight to address the realities of interrogation rooms and places of detention, which perpetuates a cycle of acquiescence and denial. The report notes a pervasive lack of access to defence; insufficient medical screening; lack of transparency concerning security entities with official powers of detention; and interrogations aimed at eliciting confession; coupled with concern that the existing mechanisms to address complaints of torture appear ineffective.
“The enactment of an effective legal framework criminalizing torture and implementation of independent national mechanisms for prevention and investigation, as set out in Iraq’s five-year Human Rights National Action Plan, would help address the persistent lack of accountability for perpetrators of torture,” said Danielle Bell, Chief of UNAMI’s Human Rights Office and the Representative for OHCHR in Iraq. “Compliance with legal obligations and procedural safeguards and the provision of effective remedies to victims of torture will promote change and build trust in the Iraqi legal system,” she added.
The report provides concrete recommendations concerning compliance with the protective framework set out in international and Iraqi law, training and review of the legal and policy framework, including interrogation rules and practices.
The report reflects ongoing UN engagement with the Government of Iraq and the Kurdistan Regional Government to promote and protect human rights in the administration of justice in Iraq.