Human Rights Watch: Torture of detainees continues in Mosul prison

A sketch depicts a stress position believed to be practiced to torture prisoners at Iraq detention facilities


“I saw eight detainees standing naked. Four guards were throwing water at them from a bucket, after which they pushed the detainees to the floor one by one, lifted their legs, and placed their feet through two rope loops attached to a wooden stick to keep the feet in place. I watched as the guards took turns beating each of the detainees on their feet with plastic piping for about 15 minutes nonstop”, this is what a former prisoner told Human Right Watch (HRW), describing what he saw at Mosul’s Faisaliya detention facility in early 2019.

According to a report published on April 18, 2019, HRW has accused Iraqi authorities of ignoring detailed allegations it had sent in February, including the names of the four officers implicated to the human rights adviser in the Prime Minister’s Advisory Commission. However Human Rights Watch says it received no reply to their letter.   

The former prisoner whose name and identifying details have been withheld for his security said that guards took him to "a section behind a metal door cut off from the rest of the cells on the evening he arrived."

Speaking to HRW he said that he saw guards torturing six of the detainees who confessed to being affiliated with the Islamic State group (IS).

“Five guards and an officer strapped each detainee in turn, still naked, onto an orange gurney and tipped it backward, so that the detainee’s feet were raised above his head and covered his face with a towel. For about five minutes, they beat each one with plastic piping while pouring water over his mouth”, according to the prisoner’s testaments.

The Iraqi government ignores credible reports of torture

The former prisoner named three of the four Interior Ministry officers overseeing that section of the detention facility, whom Human Rights Watch had identified in its August report. He also gave the name of another officer he said had overseen the torture. He said that all four officers directly participated in the torture.

Lamya Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch said “If the Iraqi government ignores credible reports of torture, it’s no wonder that the abuses persist”, wondering “what will it take for the authorities to take torture allegations seriously.”

Iraq’s High Judicial Council should issue guidelines on the steps judges are obliged to take when a defendant alleges torture

On April 1, 2019, Iraq’s High Judicial Council replied to a Human Rights Watch inquiry into the judiciary’s response to torture allegations, stating that a range of Iraqi courts had investigated 275 complaints against investigative officers by the end of 2018.

The Human Rights Watch has urged Iraq’s High Judicial Council to issue guidelines on the steps judges are obliged to take when a defendant alleges torture, indicating that judges should investigate all credible allegations of torture and the security forces responsible, and order transfers of detainees to different facilities immediately after they allege torture or ill-treatment, to protect them from retaliation.

Deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch says that the Iraqi government should demonstrate to the Iraqi people that it is serious about ending torture in Iraq’s detention facilities”, emphasizing that “strong actions are needed.”


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