Abuse causing wave of deaths at Iraqi prison: rights group

Abuse, torture causing wave of deaths at Iraqi prison, says human rights group
2 min read
08 July, 2021
Eighteen people have died in the space of four weeks, the Afada Observatory said.
A wave of deaths at the Nasiriyah Central Prison is being caused by mistreatment and torture, a human rights group has said [Getty]

Abuse including torture has led to a wave of deaths at a maximum-security prison in southern Iraq, a human rights organisation said on Wednesday.

The Afada Observatory said in a statement that 18 people had died at the Nasiriyah Central Prison in the space of just four weeks, according to information obtained by the forensic medicine department in Nasiriyah. Six prisoners, in their thirties and forties, died in the last week of May alone, according to the data.

The bodies were handed over to families with a death certificate provided by the prison, before an autopsy by the forensic department was carried out, a doctor from the department told Afada.

Two of the victims appear to have died an unnatural death, the doctor told the human rights organisation. The doctor also said that there looked to have been a deliberate delay in delivering bodies, only handing them over when they had swelled – making it difficult to determine whether prisoners had died of natural causes or from torture.

Afada also alleged that prison authorities refused to hand notes from seriously ill prisoners to their families, and provided inadequate medical help for the sick.

A member of the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR) told The New Arab's sister site Al-Araby Al-Jadeed that there have been 130 deaths in Iraqi prisons this year, with sickness and inadequate medical care the biggest cause of death.

A current and a former parliament member cast doubt on the causes of deaths in prisons, saying that some of the deaths were likely down to “reprisals” in the prison, pointing to the young age of the men who had died.

However, both said an investigation into the deaths should take place.

The prison carried out a wave of executions last year, for prisoners on terrorism charges. Twenty-one prisoners were executed in just one day in November, the UN said.

The UN accused prison authorities of only handing bodies over two or three months after the executions.

At least nine men convicted of terrorism have been executed at the prison in 2021, according to security sources. Executions at the prison are often not officially announced.

The government-funded IHCHR said it also visited the prison speaking to prisoners to document cases of ill-treatment.

The IHCHR said on Wednesday that it had tried to visit a prison in Kirkuk, but it was turned away. It called on the national security forces to permit its visits to prisons.