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Kurd security forces torturing detainees in Iraq: HRW

[JURIST] Kurdish security forces "routinely torture and deny basic due process to detainees" [press release] in northern Iraq, according to a report [PDF text] released Tuesday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website]. The report found that the Asayish security forces, which are maintained separately by the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) [party websites], have detained hundreds of terrorist suspects without due process for up to five years.

According to the report:

Human Rights Watch found that in the vast majority of Asayish detainee cases the Kurdistan authorities did not charge detainees with offenses, allow them access to a lawyer, bring them before an investigative judge, provide a mechanism by which they could appeal their detentions, or bring them to trial within a reasonable time period. Of the detainees held on suspicion of having committed serious felonies, including premeditated murder, Human Rights Watch found several cases where courts had acquitted defendants but they remained in detention, or persons had already served their terms of imprisonment but continued to be held. Most had no knowledge of their legal status, how long they would continue to be held, or what was to become of them.

Detainees reported a wide range of abuse, including beatings using implements such as cables, hosepipes, wooden sticks, and metal rods. Detainees also described how Asayish agents put them in stress positions for prolonged periods, and kept them blindfolded and handcuffed continuously for several days at a stretch. The vast majority of detainees with whom Human Rights Watch spoke also reported that they were held in solitary confinement for extended periods.
HRW Middle East division director Sarah Leah Whitson said that authorities must take action against prison officials and interrogators who perpetrate abuse. The report, which was based on a study conducted in Iraqi Kurdistan between April and October 2006, further urges Kurdish authorities to establish independent judicial committees that are unaffiliated with the Asayish. AP has more.

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