GENEVA – The United Nations has accused Iraq’s government of widespread torture of detainees in the country’s detention centers. A UN report covers the conditions at the centers from July 1, 2019, to April 30, 2021.
Torture and abuse are prohibited under international law. Iraq ratified the International Convention Against Torture in 2011 and has since enacted national laws outlawing torture.
The problem is that the government has not implemented procedural safeguards to prevent torture, and so the practice continues across the country. In a report released Tuesday by the United Nations Human Rights Office and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, the assessment is based on interviews the authors found of 235 people who were denied their freedom.
UN human rights spokeswoman Marta Hurtado says more than half of those interviewed reported torture or abuse while in custody. She says some detainees described being thrashed by officers with metal pipes, or startled by exposed electrical wires. She says that a prisoner told her handcuffs to be chained and hanged from the ceiling.
“The report states that legal procedures designed to bring the interrogation and detention under judicial control within 24 hours of the initial arrest are not respected; And until the suspects are interrogated by security forces, access to a lawyer is systematically delayed,” Hurtado said.
Hurtado said torture is used to make confessions and that access to lawyers is systematically delayed until the suspects are interrogated by security forces. He said the location of the 17 official detention sites remained opaque.
“The report also raises concerns that officials ignore complaints and signs of torture and that the systems established to address official grievances are neither proper nor effective,” Hurtado said. “The report also noted that the limited accountability authorities share for such failures suggests acceptance and tolerance of these practices.”
The report calls on Iraqi officials to fully keep the country’s anti-torture legal framework in line with international human rights law, in particular the United Nations Convention against Torture.
Commenting on the report, UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet says the prevention of torture, and not just on paper, will contribute to peace and stability in the long term. Bachelet says such an outcome is in the interest of the state as well as the victims.