Amnesty International urged the autonomous government in Iraqi Kurdistan yesterday to rein in its security forces, warning they were “operating outside the rule of law.”
In a new report, the London-based rights organization said the “Asayish” security force was carrying out arrests without legal warrants, prisoners were often not told why they were being arrested and had no access to a lawyer.
It also cited cases of political suspects who have been tortured or made to disappear.
“Many people complained to Amnesty International that the Asayish is permitted to act outside the law, unconstrained by any judicial or other oversight, and operates as a law unto itself,” the report said.
Elsewhere, the report welcomed progress on tackling violence against women but warned that more needed to be done, and said that despite efforts to expand freedom of expression, journalists were still being arrested.
“The Kurdistan region has been spared the bloodletting and violence that continues to wrack the rest of Iraq and the KRG [Kurdistan Regional Government] has made some important human rights advances,” said Malcolm Smart, director of Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa program.
“Yet real problems — arbitrary detention and torture, attacks on journalists and freedom of expression, and violence against women — remain and need urgently to be addressed by the government,” Smart said.
In its report, based on research including interviews conducted last year, Amnesty praised the regional government for releasing hundreds of political detainees last year, many of whom had been held without charge for years.
But it said the Asayish remained powerful, as did the security arms of the two main Kurdish parties, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and the Kurdistan Democratic Party.
“The KRG must take concrete steps to rein in these forces and make them fully accountable under the law if recent human rights gains are to prove effective,” Smart said. The regional government has taken important action to protect women against violence, but it remains a problem, the report said, citing several cases of women murdered by male relatives as well as suicides sparked by violence.
“No effort should be spared to prosecute and imprison those who commit violence against women and to make clear that those who perpetrate these crimes cannot escape justice,” Smart said.
The Kurdish region operates autonomously from Baghdad, enacting its own laws and operating its own police force, and has enjoyed better security than the rest of Iraq since the US-led invasion in 2003.