Kurdish security forces escort an ISIS suspect after clashes in Kirkuk in 2016. File photo: Marwan Ibrahim/AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – The 350 detainees whose fate was raised by Human Rights Watch (HRW) last month were affiliated with ISIS and voluntarily surrendered to Kurdish security forces, a KRG office has stated.
“The security forces had not charged them; they willingly admitted their affiliation to ISIS,” reads a response to the HRW report from the KRG’s office for responding to international reports.
In December, HRW stated
that the whereabouts of about 350 detainees, mainly Sunni Arab males from the Kirkuk area, are unknown but they are believed to be held by Kurdistan Region forces.
“The secret, incommunicado detentions raise grave concerns for their safety,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at HRW, adding that the men’s family members were “desperate” for information about their loved ones.
The KRG office said that security forces “were unable to inform their families as they were isolated from them and were transferred to a camp in Jed’a which falls under the Federal Authority [of Iraq].”
According to the KRG statement, no ISIS affiliates are in Asayesh (Kurdish security) custody, though the Asayesh have been involved in transferring detainees from Kirkuk to Erbil.
Describing their standard process when arresting ISIS members or affiliates, the KRG stated that all displaced persons were screened on their arrival in Kurdish-controlled territory. Those who are cleared are released and those who are detained are charged.
“They have notified the family members of ISIS members and affiliates of their arrest, the right to see their families, and the right to an attorney. They are later transferred to reception centers where they are provided with essential aid and services,” the statement detailed.
Those accused of affiliation with ISIS are transferred to a special court “where they are given the right to an attorney and their families are allowed to have access to them.”
However, “The arrest process for the mentioned 350 prisoners in HRW report was different… as they submitted themselves to the KRG security forces,” the KRG office stated, without detailing what processes the men have gone through.
According to the KRG Judicial Council, from the start of the war with ISIS in 2014 through the first half of 2017, 399 ISIS affiliates have been arrested in Kirkuk. Of them, 137 have been investigated and 35 have been convicted.
The KRG office said they are willing to transfer ISIS affiliates to federal authorities, noting the government has formed a committee in coordination with the UN’s office in Iraq, “to determine the fate of the ISIS detainees” in the Kurdistan Region, but said Baghdad has not yet begun legal proceedings to accept the detainees.
Human Rights Watch has reported serious flaws
in the judicial processing of accused ISIS members and affiliates in both Iraq and the Kurdistan Region.