Baghdad: Human Rights Watch on Friday condemned France’s “outsourcing” of trials of Daesh suspects to “abusive justice systems”, after seven of its nationals have this week been sentenced to death in Iraq.
Two of them have “alleged that they were tortured or coerced to confess”, the New York-based watchdog said in a statement.
“France and other countries should not be outsourcing management of their terrorism suspects to abusive justice systems,” said HRW’s acting Middle East director, Lama Fakih.
“These countries should not be sitting idly by while their citizens are transferred to a country where their right to a fair trial and protection from torture are undermined.”
A Baghdad court sentenced a Frenchman to death on Wednesday for joining Daesh, bringing to seven the number of French militants on death row in Iraq.
Yassine Sakkam’s sentence came despite France reiterating its opposition to capital punishment this week.
In January, a group of 11 French citizens and one Tunisian was handed over to Iraqi authorities by a US-backed force which expelled the militant group from its last bastion in Syria.
Around 1,000 suspected foreign Daesh fighters are held in detention by this Kurdish force and Iraq has offered to put them on trial in exchange for millions of dollars, potentially solving a legal conundrum for Western governments but sparking rights concerns.
France has long insisted its adult citizens captured in Iraq or Syria must face trial before local courts, while stressing its opposition to capital punishment.
Iraqi law provides for the death penalty for anyone joining a “terrorist group” - even those who did not take up arms.
HRW said it had documented cases of Iraqi interrogators “using a range of torture techniques, including beating suspects on the soles of their feet, internationally known as ‘falaka’, and waterboarding, which would not leave lasting marks on the person’s body”.
It also condemned “the routine failure of the Iraqi justice system to credibly investigate torture allegations”.
Before that, in all but one case observed by HRW since 2016, trials had consisted of “a judge briefly interviewing the defendant, usually relying solely on a confession, often coerced, with no effective legal representation”.
A group representing the families of French militants has asked the government in Paris to “do everything possible to stop this fatal chain of death sentences” and to try them “on our soil”.
On Tuesday, Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said France was stepping up efforts to stop Iraq executing those convicted.