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Justice in Iraq

More than 2,000 non-Iraqi ISIS suspects detained in Syria by Western-backed Syria Democratic Forces may soon be transferred to Iraq for prosecution, since most of their countries are refusing to repatriate them. The Telegraph claimed in April that they include at least 26 British men and women and 30 British children. Iraq is negotiating for handsome payments to dispose of them. Evidence suggests they will do so nastily. Some might say good riddance – but did we really wage moral war on ISIL in order to pay others to torture its deranged followers? Don’t we have justice here? Have we watched too much Game of Thrones?

On June 26th, UN International Day supporting victims of torture, Human Rights Watch released a report of the amputation, in April, of an Iraqi detainee’s arm after he had been suspended for three days in Harthiya Police Station. His arteries were ruined. He was not an ISIL suspect, just a man accused of assisting a car theft. Suspension by the arms is a vicious torture used by the Inquisition, the Nazis and the North Vietnamese. It stretches and tears muscles and nerves, dislocates shoulders, destroys arteries and veins. The many varieties include suspension from the wrists (which causes permanent nerve damage in 15 minutes), parrot perch (wrists bound in front of the body and passed under the legs, with a suspension pole behind the knees) and Palestinian suspension (arms tied behind the back and attached to a bar in agonising reverse suspension) are among the refinements. Complaints by the man’s brother to Major General Hussein Ali Dana at the Interior Ministry, and by his wife to the Judicial Supervisory Authority fell on deaf ears. He said in court on April 14th that his confession was under torture that had led to his amputation, but the judge ignored him and sentenced him to 15 years. Chief Justice Jassim Alumairi told HRW there was no evidence of torture. He refused to describe how he had looked.

This is no isolated incident. One former detainee claims that earlier this year he watched through a window at Faisaliya detention facility as four (named) officers tortured eight naked ISIL suspects. They were beaten on their feet with hard pipes for 15 minutes, an agonising torture called falaka which fractures bones and causes massive bruising and swelling. Six confessed to affiliation with ISIL. The other two were waterboarded then ‘Palestinian’ suspended till they too confessed. Who knows what was true?

In May seven French citizens, transferred to Iraq from Syria, were sentenced to death, at least two alleging torture and coercion. French foreign minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, says that they had “fair trials,” yet Iraqi trials mostly consist of conviction on the basis of confession, with judges apparently not pausing to count limbs.

The UN Convention against Torture prohibits transfer of detainees to a country where they may be tortured, yet the West is shrugging a collective shrug reminiscent of the abandonment of Shamima Begum. Do we want justice, or revenge? Daenarys Targaryen would be proud.

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