IRAQI KURDISTAN: PRESS RELEASE | Political Rule above the Rule of Law

 

PRESS RELEASE - 28 June 2021

Christian Peacemaker Teams – Iraqi Kurdistan condemns the final decision of Erbil’s judiciary to deny justice to Badinan activists and journalists.

On 27 June 2021, the Court of Cassation in Erbil announced that it upholds the unjust sentencing of the five journalists and civil rights activists Sherwan Sherwani, Guhdar Zebari, Eyaz Karam, Shivan Saeed, and Hariwan Essa, all of whom are from the Badinan region.

With the decision to uphold six-year prison terms for each of the Badinan prisoners, the court confirmed the concerns shared by many national and international organizations and institutions regarding this case: political rule in Iraqi Kurdistan stands above the rule of law.

The Badinan journalists and civil rights activists have been criminalized for speaking to consulates about the state of human rights in Iraqi Kurdistan, criticizing and reporting on government corruption, and participating in nonviolent protests. Since the Badinan prisoners were arrested without warrants (between August and October 2020) up until their trial on 15 February 2021, The KRG have denied them regular contact with their family members and interrogated them without the presence of their lawyers. During their detention, the Badinan prisoners were allowed to have only one family members’ visit on 6 January 2021. The visit lasted only five minutes and was observed by the Asaish officers. On 16 February 2021, the Criminal Court in Erbil sentenced five of the Badinan journalists and activists to six years in prison on trumped-up charges of conducting espionage and conspiring to commit sabotage and crimes against national security.

Members of Christian Peacemaker Teams - Iraqi Kurdistan (CPT-IK) observed this trial as it lasted for only two days. During the trial, the prosecution presented insufficient evidence for these charges[1] of conspiracy and sabotage. In violation of Articles 126 and 127 of Iraqi Criminal Procedure Code no. 23 (1971), the judge dismissed Sherwan Sherwani’s claim that he was tortured. The judge also dismissed that Sherwan’s wife Rugash was threatened with sexual violence. Instead of suspending the trial to investigate these acts of violence, the judge disregarded Sherwan’s testimony of experiencing torture and threats of violence. After the trial, the security council that had interrogated Sherwan filed a legal complaint against him for “defamation,” disregarding the defendant’s right to testify to a court [2]. The ruling of the Criminal Court and its confirmation by the Erbil’s Court of Cassation on 6 May 2021 has been condemned not only by Iraqi Kurdistan’s civil society but also by international organizations and diplomats, as the Court has ruled that meetings about civil rights between Iraqi Kurdistan citizens and foreign diplomats are criminal acts of espionage.

Read the full release here.

 

[1] More details about the trial can be found in the CPT-IK’s report Freedom of Expression Under Threat (March 2021)

[2] More details can be found in the report published by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Freedom of Expression Increasingly Curtailed in Kurdistan Region of Iraq (May 2021)

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