Human rights violations continuing in Iraqi prisons

Human rights violations continuing in Iraqi prisons with no response by UN mission
3 min read
18 May, 2021
Prisoners in Iraq's prisons are subjected to inhumane conditions and frequent violations of their human rights, activists and NGOs have claimed.
Rights groups are calling for urgent action to halt violations [Getty]

Human rights violations inside Iraq’s prisons are increasing leading to illnesses and deaths, according to the Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights (IHCHR). 

The rights group is calling for basic standards to be met and for the rights of detainees and prisoners, some charged with terrorism offences, to be guaranteed. 

Serious concerns were raised after it was reported that an inmate in Nasiriyah Central Prison had died after succumbing to an illness.

This was followed by reports of the death of another prisoner from kidney failure. 

"Most of the prisons and detention centres in the country witness many problems, and are far from implementing international standards in dealing with inmates and detainees," Fadhel Al-Gharawi, a trustee on the board of the commission, told The New Arab’s sister publication, Al-Araby Al-Jadeed.

"There are many problems, most notably overcrowding, delayed releases, and family visits," he added. 

Other issues, such as legal guarantees, healthcare, crumbling infrastructure, and a lack of rehabilitation also plague the prisons. 

In light of the appalling conditions in Iraqi prisons, and the abuses suffered by prisoners, IHCHR has called on the Iraqi government to urgently enact an alternative penal code that can help with the issue of overcrowding, and prevent financial waste, which is proving to be a heavy burden for the state treasury. 

"The need has become urgent to implement human rights standards and guarantees in prisons, and to stop violations," said Al-Gharawi.

Blame for the poor conditions inside Iraqi prisons and the mistreatment of detainees has been put on the Iraqi ministry of justice, which has blocked human rights organisations from visiting prisons. 

The United Nations mission in Iraq has been accused by human rights activist, Ahmed Al-Daini, of failing to follow up on reported violations inside Iraq’s prisons. He even went as far as to accuse the mission of condoning such violations. 

"No less than three inmates die every week in prisons due to torture, malnutrition, and disease, without a response from the UN operating in Iraq," said Al-Daini. 

"The prisons' file has become a critical humanitarian issue, and includes financial corruption and political involvement, even at the level of influential armed factions in the country. It has become a part of the political bargaining and blackmail."

The New Arab reached out to the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq for comment but did not receive a response at the time of publication. 

A 2019 report by Human Rights Watch also highlighted serious violations and abuses in Iraqi prisons.

"The evidence shared with Human Rights Watch strongly suggests that conditions at the Nineveh pretrial detention facilities are unfit to hold detainees for extended periods of time and do not meet basic international standards. Holding detainees in such conditions amount to ill-treatment," the report read.