Amnesty International has strongly condemned a call by the Iraqi Interior Minister for the swift execution of 39 alleged al-Qai’da members. They were paraded before journalists, handcuffed and clad in orange jumpsuits.
The minister, Jawad al-Bolani said on Thursday (2 December), before the men had even been tried, that the courts would “sentence them to death”. He insisted, “Our demand is not to delay the carrying out of the executions against these criminals so that to deter terrorist and criminal elements”.
But Malcolm Smart, Amnesty International’s director for the Middle East and North Africa, expressed his anger at the prisoners' treatment.
“For Jawad al-Bolani to abuse his position as Interior Minister by parading these men publicly and calling for their execution before they have even gone to trial, flagrantly flaunting the requirement for defendants to be presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court, is absolutely outrageous,” said Smart.
He added, “It makes a complete mockery of any suggestion that these suspects will receive a fair trial, and sets a most ominous precedent for others”.
According to media reports, al-Bolani also said that most of the 39 suspects had rejoined al-Qai’da linked groups after being released from Iraqi prisons administered by the USA. One of them was identified as Hazim al-Zawi, said to be al-Qai’da in Iraq’s third-highest leader.
Amnesty International highlighted, in a September report, serious concerns about human rights abuses suffered by the many thousands of detainees in Iraq, many of whom were transferred from US to Iraqi custody in the months up to mid-July 2010.
The report detailed how many detainees were arbitrarily held, sometimes for several years without charge or trial, and often tortured to obtain forced confessions.
“We have been saying for a long time that ‘confessions’ in Iraq are regularly extracted under torture, so any ‘confessions’ these 39 suspects have made, which may be used in their trial, must be thoroughly investigated to ensure that they have not been made under duress, torture or other ill-treatment,” argued Smart.
He asked, “What chance can there be for any defendant to receive a fair trial if so senior a government minister shows such contempt for the rule of law?”