Behdinan activists' lawyers accuse Hewlêr of torture

The Behdinan activists' lawyers accuse Hewlêr of systematically mistreating and torturing political prisoners in Asayîş detention centres. The UN Aid Mission to Iraq also complains about torture by the secret service.

The lawyer for the Behdinan activists has accused the South Kurdish regional government of being responsible for the systematic mistreatment and torture of political prisoners. In a letter to the President, Parliament and the Human Rights Commission of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), the lawyers complain about violence, torture and targeted repression of prisoners in detention centres operated by the domestic intelligence service Asayîş. “It is illegal to detain our clients in these facilities. We demand their immediate transfer to regular prisons run by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs. The conditions in the Asayîş centres are incompatible with human rights,” the letter said.

Asayîş runs unofficial and secret detention facilities

The Asayîş intelligence service is subordinate to the National Assembly and the regional government and is responsible, among other things, for counter-terrorism, the prevention of drug trafficking and the prosecution of political crimes. Only high-ranking officials of the Barzani party KDP are appointed as senior officials. It has been known for years that torture and ill-treatment of prisoners are the order of the day in the Asayîş detention facilities, which are sometimes unofficial and secret. The topic was recently taken up by the United Nations Aid Mission to Iraq (UNAMI).

UNAMI: "Sufficiently Credible and Reliable Reports of Torture"

According to a report released Tuesday last week, the support mission interviewed over a hundred inmates in Asayîş centres in South Kurdistan and held interviews with prison staff, judges, lawyers, families of detainees and other relevant individuals. More than half of those interviewed, the report said, had provided "sufficiently credible and reliable reports of torture". The report also deals with the situation in Iraqi prisons. Both the Kurdish regional government and the central government in Baghdad are urged by UNAMI to “re-examine the ongoing practice of torture and / or other forms of ill-treatment in detention centres”.

Independent journalists and anti-government activists in Asayîş centres

Dozens of independent media workers, activists and intellectuals who were imprisoned in 2020 in connection with the anti-government protests in the region of Behdinan are held in the Asayîş centres. The allegations against them are usually of participation or organization of prohibited demonstrations and espionage. Seventeen people accused of "destabilizing national security" have been subjected to unfair trials based on fabricated evidence. Seven of them, including journalists Qahraman Shukri, Omed Baroshki, Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari and Ayaz Karam, and activists Shivan Saeed Omar and Hariwan Issa, have already been sentenced to between one and seven years in prison.

Alleged prosecutor's witnesses stop trial farce

On 29 July, the Hewlêr Criminal Court was going to try teacher Badal Barwari for "undermining national security". The teacher was arrested in Dihok in August last year and has been in custody since then. Journalist Omed Baroshki is also a defendant in the same trial. However, the trial was interrupted in the middle of the hearing because the public prosecutor's office presented false testimony. Their alleged witnesses were Sherwani, Karam and Omar. They denied in court that they gave testimony against the defendants in the trial and alleged that they were tortured into making false confessions. Thereupon the farce trial was temporarily stopped and postponed to 30 September. But it wasn't the first trial for Baroshki. At the end of June the journalist was sentenced to one year in prison for several violations of the South Kurdish press law.

Rêxistina 17’ê Sibat: Revenge on Behdinan activists

The South Kurdish organization “Rêxistina 17’ê Sibat” expressed concern on Sunday about the state of health of the detained Behdinan activists and said that the detainees would be made “compliant” by deprivation of food. At times they did not receive any water at all. "We condemn this practice in the strongest possible terms and call on the public to stand up for the release of the prisoners," the group said in a statement. Badal Barwari, is in "extremely bad shape" according to family members. He has lost a significant amount of weight since his arrest a year ago. He was around 110 kilos, but currently he only weighs 60 kilo.