HRW: Iraq arrests lawyers defending Islamic State suspects

Representational photo.

Baghdad ( Iraqi authorities have issued arrest warrants since July 24th for 15 private lawyers whom they accuse of working in the past as judges at courts run by the Islamic State, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Thursday.

The organization said that the suspected lawyers represented Islamic State members before official Iraqi courts. “While lawyers are not immune from prosecution if they engage in criminal activity, they should not be prosecuted for doing their job as lawyers, nor should the authorities associate them with their clients’ cause simply because they represented them,” a report by the organization said, saying that the situation arouses fears that authorities were intimidating the lawyers to repel them from representing IS suspects.

“The authorities should immediately explain why they are detaining and charging these lawyers,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “They need to make it clear that Iraqi lawyers should not be afraid to defend ISIS suspects.”

HRW said a senior judge told its workers on August 5th that his court had gathered evidence, including witness testimony, that the 15 defense lawyers had worked as lawyers in IS courts in Mosul.

“Human Rights Watch researchers observed two trials in which defendants had a state-appointed lawyer. The lawyers did not speak once during the hearings, with the judge and the court stenographer directly questioning the defendant,”the report said.

In May, as Iraqi forces approached victory over IS at Mosul, the group’s largest bastion in Iraq, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi promised fair trials for arrested militants if they surrender.


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