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Detained Iraqis suspected of IS links 'denied human rights'

HRW has urged authorities to make public the whereabouts of Iraqi detainees [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 November, 2016

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Human Rights Watch said at least 37 men arrested over suspected ties to the Islamic State group are being denied contact with families who are not informed of their whereabouts

Men suspected of ties to the Islamic State group have been arrested by Iraqi and Kurdish authorities with families pleading for information on their whereabouts.

Human Rights Watch has said at least 37 men have been detained by government forces who are advancing on IS stronghold, Mosul.

The rights group spoke to relatives and witnesses who described how security forces took the men from checkpoints, villages, screening centres, and camps, and were denied contact with them.

The enforced disappearances could amount to violations of international humanitarian law, HRW said.

"On top of the danger and anxiety facing civilians fleeing IS control, some are now being detained and denied contact with their families by Iraqi and KRG authorities," said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director.

"When detainees are held without contact with the outside world, in unknown locations, that significantly increases the risk of other violations, including ill-treatment and torture."

HRW interviewed people who had recently fled the fighting in Mosul and found refuge in government controlled camps.

Those interviewed consistently said that detainees held by both Iraqi and KRG forces had not been able to contact them and that in many cases they did not know where the detainees were being held.

HRW found that KRG forces have detained men and boys as young as 15 for indefinite periods stretching from weeks to months, even after they pass an initial security check for possible affiliations with IS.

While being screened, detainees are denied access to lawyers and detained even in the absence of evidence that they are not individually suspected of a crime, they told HRW.

Dr Dindar Zebari, chairman of the KRG's High Committee to Evaluate and Respond to International Reports, told HRW that KRG authorities are committed to informing the families of detainees of the process and status but, "due to a lack of personnel and financial resources this task may at times be a difficult one".

"Iraqi and KRG authorities should take steps to make sure that their efforts to keep civilians safe from ISIS attacks don't undermine basic rights," Fakih said, urging authorities to make public the number of fighters and civilians detained and the legal basis for their detention, including the charges against them.

An Amnesty International report on Thursday also accused government forces of torturing and murdering Iraqis on suspicion of being linked to IS.

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