An interesting article was published by The National News, talking about recent trials for ISIS fighters in Iraq. The United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq (Unami) has observed over six hundred of these trials and reported that 30% of them ended in the death penalty, as we read in the article:
Representatives from the UN Assistance Mission to Iraq (Unami) observed 619 of these cases. In a report, they wrote that Iraq “has made considerable efforts to ensure accountability” and that Unami “generally observed efficiency, structure and order in the conduct of judicial proceedings”.
There’s always a “but”.
“Nonetheless,” the report continues, “the findings show serious concerns.” These include violations of fair trial standards, an overreliance on confessions, frequent allegations of torture and a lack of transparency.
One of the biggest problems, Unami notes, is that all ISIS-related prosecutions are tried under Iraq’s wide-ranging 2005 counterterrorism law. It is applied to a broad range of offences, in effect maximising the conviction rate. The death penalty can be used for as minor a charge as simply having been associated with a terrorist group. Thirty per cent of the sentencing hearings Unami attended resulted in the death penalty – 10 times the rate it saw in non-terrorism-related criminal cases.
Several of the ISIS suspects tried in 2019 were alleged foreign fighters. One French suspect, Mustapha Merzoughi, met his attorney just minutes before a short trial in which he was sentenced to death.
“Many judges are not necessarily seeking harsh penalties,” an Iraqi judge told Unami officials. “The law does not give much choice.”