Detainees are held in a facility in the Kurdistan Region. File photo: Rudaw
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — The Kurdistan Regional Government has denied a Human Rights Watch (HRW) report blaming security officers in the Kurdistan Region of "torturing children to confess to involvement with the Islamic State (ISIS).”
"As for the allegations of torture, all forms of torture and ill treatment of detainees are prohibited," wrote Dindar Zebari on December 14, the chair of the Kurdistan Region's Department for International Advocacy, in a response to a HRW inquiry.
HRW claimed in a report on Tuesday that in 2017-18, Asayesh (Kurdish Security) had "tortured" at least 16 children (boys ranging from 14-17 years old) during interrogations about their alleged ISIS affiliation.
"The practice of ill treatment is generally rare in the Kurdistan Region's detention facilities," added Zebari.
The rights group conducted its interviews at the Women and Children’s Reformatory in Erbil in November 2018 and with three boys who have been released.
The facility's staff told HRW that 63 people under the age of 18 were being held there for terrorism-related offenses, including 43 who had already been convicted.
Some detainees were threatened with physical force during their interrogations, according to HRW.
"Sixteen of the 23 children said that one or more Asayish officers had tortured them during interrogation at Asayish facilities, beating them all over their bodies with plastic pipes, electric cables, or rods," stated HRW.
Human Rights Watch was unable to independently assess their possible involvement with ISIS, but noted: "Several boys said that they had joined and worked with ISIS or received religious or military training."
One admitted to participating in fighting against Iraqi Security Forces in Nineveh province.
HRW also faulted court proceedings, forced or coerced confessions being read by accusers and not the accused, and the use of the Kurdish language in courtrooms.
“The Kurdistan authorities should immediately end all torture of child detainees and investigate those responsible," said Jo Becker, children’s rights advocacy director at HRW, in the report.
The HRW report went on to list a number of complaints with the KRG's legal, justice, and security systems.
Zebari's office stated that the detainees have access to UN bodies, lawyers, medical and social services, and non-governmental organizations.