IGOHR Condemns the Torture of Children detained by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq
The International Gulf Organization for Human Rights (IGOHR) strongly condemns the torture and mistreatment of children held in detention by the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) forces in Iraq. IGOHR views such treatment of children by government security forces as a blatant violation of international human rights principles and calls on Iraqi authorities to cease from maltreating minors in their custody.
A recent report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Iraq Kurdistan Regional Government for the arbitrary detention and alleged of about 17 children in their custody. These children – ages 11 to 17 years – are among the 183 boys that are detained by the KRG on suspicion of having links with ISIL. According to the children interviewed by HRW, they have been held for a long period of time without being formally charged nor have any access to lawyers. The boys reportedly explained how they were held in stress positions, burnt with cigarettes, punched and kicked, beaten with plastic pipes and cables, and also had signs of electrocution on their bodies; methods used during their interrogation by the Asayish, the KRG’s security forces. The children never being charged formally to court nor have access to a lawyer.
IGOHR stresses that the use of torture or other cruel treatments to extract information from minors in detention is strictly against international legal and human rights instruments related to child’s rights which may amount to crime against humanity. The Convention of the Rights of a Child guarantees a number of important children rights that need to be respected even if accused of committing a crime. It prohibits the torture and mistreatment of children in detention and the detention of children should be the last resort if a child is suspected of committing a criminal offense (Article 37). It further stipulates that children be given appropriate legal assistance and the have the right “not to be compelled to give testimony or to confess guilt” (Article 40).
The 1984 Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment forbids the use of internal political instability or any other public emergency as a pretext to justify torture and it equally mandates Member State to criminalize any act of torture within its criminal code. Iraq is a party and Member state to both conventions but the KRG authorities have failed to respect their obligations in the case of the children suspected of terrorism.
IGOHR welcomes HRW’s report and calls on Iraqi authorities to thoroughly and swiftly investigate into the torture claims by the security forces. They should bring to justice those responsible for the acts of torture and ill treatment of these children. The KRG should respect the rights of the children in their custody and to refrain from arbitrarily detaining them and using torture tactics during their interrogations. IGOHR also urges the KRG government to give these boys access to lawyers and a fair trial in line with international human rights norms.