'ISIS suspects dying amid horrific conditions in Mosul prisons' – Human Rights Watch
Video has emerged appearing to show people suspected of having links to ISIS being held in dire conditions at a prison south of the recently liberated, Iraqi city of Mosul.
Footage shows over 500 people incarcerated at a facility with no electricity, ventilation or windows. A number of them suffer from severe health conditions.
RT: What do you make of this latest development that is coming out in Iraq?
Belkis Wille: I would point out that this is not a new development. Human Rights Watch [HRW] visited these very same prisons in February and released a report where we documented in detail the horrific and inhumane conditions in which these men are being held. There were rampant problems of ill treatment, of disease, and in fact, there were multiple men that are dying in detention, because of the sanitary and hygiene conditions in those facilities. Prisoners, whether or not they have been charged with ISIS affiliation, have basic rights and they need to be moved out of these facilities as quickly as possible.
RT: How long can they be kept there?
BW: I’ve seen men who have been kept in those facilities for four months, six months. Now we’re getting to a period of even longer. You have to imagine these images only give you a small snapshot. I went into one cell that was four by six meters – 114 men that had been in there for four months, and the windows had been bricked-up; the temperature was almost 100 F; the stench was immense with men not being allowed to shower, no bathrooms besides one toilet in the room – really horrific conditions.
RT: Why is this being allowed to happen, as people have known about this for some time?
BW: With the advent of ISIS, Nineveh and Mosul itself was outside of government control. Mosul has two key prisons, historically. These prisons were damaged in the fighting. At the moment they are holding about 2,000 men on ISIS affiliation charges in basically houses, makeshift facilities, local police stations that are completely unfit to hold people because they don’t have proper prison facilities to hold these men. Unfortunately, this has not become a priority of the government or the international community in terms of urgently rehabilitating the Mosul prisons…
RT: Do you feel that people are trying to avoid the story, or media just isn’t picking it up?
BW: It is important to know that at the moment in Iraq, people who are held on ISIS suspicious charges are probably the least popular people in the country. You don’t have the local civil society petitioning for their rights; you don’t have judges, you don’t have lawyers petitioning for their rights because they are tainted by this label of ISIS affiliation. It is broadly seen that whatever comes to them is what they deserved.
RT: There are reports too about the Iraqi military carrying out extrajudicial killings. What can you say about that?
BW: In the battle of Mosul, which is coming to a close in the last weeks, what we’ve seen is a really fundamental change in the way that the battle is being fought. What I can say is that in the last two – three weeks alone I have received numerous reports from front-line journalists, from organizations and even from military forces – were proudly showing videos and photos of them rounding up ISIS suspected men, mostly simply men that are coming out of the old city at this final stage and thus are presumably linked to ISIS. They are taking these men into buildings, torturing them, executing them. We just saw most recently that a new mass execution site was discovered… To date, we have not seen a single investigation leading to results and accountability.
'Getting away with murder'
Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Director, Human Rights Watch
RT: Why is that happening? Is it because they don't trust their own justice system to deal with suspected militants properly?
Sarah Leah Whitson: You would have to ask the Iraqi soldiers who are carrying out these executions - why are they doing them? If I would have to speculate I would say that probably it has to do with feelings of revenge, and knowing that they are going to get away with murder.
RT: Tell us more about the conditions that those who are detained are being held in. Are we seeing serious human rights violations at these facilities?
SLW: We have discovered a few detention sights, where detainees were being kept in subhuman conditions without access to sanitation, or any minimal provisions of food. The Iraqi authorities have since moved the detainees out of these out of these makeshift detention centers.
Iraqi Prime Minister [Haider] al-Abadi has repeatedly recognized the abuses that are underway, and has repeatedly promised investigations, but we have never seen the results of those investigations. We have never heard of a soldier or a militia fighter being sanctioned, punished or otherwise penalized for committing executions and murders.
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