The United Nations accused the government of Iraq of the widespread torture of detainees held in the country’s detention centers. A U.N. report covers conditions in the centers from July 1, 2019 to April 30, 2021.
Torture and ill treatment are prohibited under international law. Iraq ratified the international convention against Torture in 2011 and since has enacted national laws criminalizing torture.
The problem is the government has not implemented the procedural safeguards to prevent torture, and so the practice continues throughout the country. That assessment in a report released Tuesday by the U.N. human rights office and the U.N. assistance mission for Iraq is based on interviews that the authors conducted with 235 people deprived of their liberty.
U.N. human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says more than half of those interviewed provided accounts of having been tortured or ill-treated while in custody. She says some detainees described beatings by officers with metal pipes, or of being shocked with exposed electrical wires. One inmate, she says, spoke of having his handcuffs hooked on a chain and hung from the ceiling.
“The report states that legal procedures designed to bring interrogations and detention under judicial control within 24 hours of the initial arrest are not respected; and access to a lawyer is systematically delayed until after suspects have been interrogated by the security forces,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado said torture is used to extract confessions and access to a lawyer is systematically delayed until after suspects have been interrogated by security forces. She said the location of 17 official detention sites remains opaque.
“The report also raises concerns that the authorities ignore complaints and signs of torture and says that the systems established to address official complaints appear to be neither fair nor effective," Hurtado said. "The report also says that the limited accountability for such failures on the part of the authorities suggests acquiescence and tolerance of these practices.”
The report calls on Iraqi authorities to put the nation’s anti-torture legal framework fully in line with international human rights law, particularly the United Nations Convention against Torture.
Commenting on the report, U.N. rights chief Michelle Bachelet says the prevention of torture, and not just on paper, would contribute to peace and stability in the long term. Bachelet adds such an outcome is in the interest of the state as well as the victims.