Iraqi Authorities Illegally Detain and Torture Female Inmates

Ana Martinez

On Thursday, the organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report denouncing abusive measures taken by Iraqi security forces in relation to women in the country's criminal justice system. According to HRW, some are detained for years without charges before they can see a judge; many are tortured or threatened with sexual assault. In the report, HRW continues:  Many of the 27 women who spoke with [HRW] described being beaten, kicked, slapped, hung upside-down and beaten on their feet (falaqa), given electric shocks, and raped or threatened with sexual assault by security forces during their interrogation. They said security forces questioned them about their male relatives’ activities rather than crimes in which they themselves were implicated. Security forces forced them to sign statements, many with fingerprints, which they were not allowed to read and that they later repudiated in court, they said.   One woman entered her meeting with [HRW]  in Iraq’s death row facility in Baghdad’s Kadhimiyya neighborhood on crutches. She said nine days of beatings, electric shocks, and falaqa in March 2012 had left her permanently disabled. The split nose, back scars, and burns on her breast that [HRW] observed were consistent with the abuse she alleged. She was executed in September 2013, seven months after [HRW] interviewed her, despite lower court rulings that dismissed charges against her following a medical report that supported her alleged torture. … The vast majority of the more than 4,200 women detained in Interior and Defense ministry facilities are Sunni, but the abuses [HRW] documents affect women of all sects and classes throughout Iraqi society. Although a spokesman for the Iraqi human rights ministry told Reuters that the women’s declarations were “over-exaggerated,” he admitted the country has “some limited illegal behaviors which were practiced by security forces against women prisoners.” HRW also points out that although both men and women are subject to these abuses, women “suffer a double burden due to their second-class status in Iraqi society.” 

Ana Martinez is a Spring 2014 intern.
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