Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 July 2019

Iraqi rights commission deplores 'very poor' prison conditions

Overcrowding and lack of funds leaves detainees without proper care

Suspected ISIS members in a prison south of Mosul in July 2017. AP Photo
Suspected ISIS members in a prison south of Mosul in July 2017. AP Photo

Iraq's prisons are overcrowded and lack proper care for detainees, the state human rights watchdog said in a report released on Thursday.

The Independent High Commission for Human Rights said prison conditions remained poor despite numerous calls for action in the past.

The capture of thousands of suspected members of ISIS has increased the number of detainees and overloaded Iraq's criminal justice system. Many of the fighters from the extremist militant group need extensive medical and psychological treatment, but prisons lack rehabilitation centres due to a shortage of finance, according to rights commission member Hemin Baglan.

“The situation of prisons in Iraq are very poor,” Mr Baglan said, adding that most of the prisoners had been held for years without their cases being heard.

“The prisons are overcrowded, especially as more than 28,000 prisoners have been charged but an additional 29,000 are still waiting to be charged,” he said.

Mr Baglan said the commission applied international standards in assessing prisons and the poor conditions was affecting the prisoners's well-being.

“It is contributing to the spread of skin diseases and infections among the inmates,” he said.

Last April, Human Rights Watch (HRW) also reported the persistent use of torture in Iraqi jails, especially in Mosul’s Faisaliya prison.

The NGO documented new torture allegations earlier this year in prisons in the northern city, about six months after publishing a report on what it said were “chilling” abuses there and in two nearby facilities.

Faisaliya is located in eastern Mosul, the battered Iraqi city that was ISIS's de facto capital for three years before security forces recaptured it in late 2017.

The new reports come from a detainee held in Faisaliya in early 2019. He described guards beating groups of naked detainees on their feet with plastic piping until they confessed to being affiliated with ISIS.

The prisoner said guards also waterboarded detainees and suspended them from the ceiling with their hands tied behind their backs.

"If the Iraqi government ignores credible reports of torture, it's no wonder that the abuses persist," said Lama Fakih, HRW's deputy Middle East director.

"What will it take for the authorities to take torture allegations seriously?"

Updated: June 20, 2019 03:40 PM

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