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Iraq MPs describe prison overcrowding as a “humanitarian catastrophe”

Following the release of Human Right Watch’s report on the horrific conditions in jails in Iraq, several member’s of Iraq’s parliament alongside the province’s deputy governor visited prisoners near Mosul and described the situation as a “humanitarian catastrophe”.

In their initial report, Human Rights Watch documented extreme overcrowding, inhumane conditions, and ill-treatment at the Nineveh pretrial detention centers. These three centers had a combined capacity of 2,500 people but in late June 2019 held an estimated 4,500 people including children.

Human Rights Watch reported that:

"The detainees have no space to lie down or sit comfortably and have no mattresses because there is no room for them in the cells. Lawyers cannot visit their clients, because, among other reasons, there is no space for meetings".

The severe overcrowding has lead to several deaths in custody.

They further state that those tried and convicted should be transferred to facilities in Baghdad but prisoners have had to wait for up to six months in these overcrowded facilities after they were convicted. There are approximately 1,300 who have already been tried and convicted and now must be transferred. 

The government’s initial response to Human Rights Watch’s report was to reject its findings as “fallacious” however there has been a shift towards accepting the findings of the report. 

Human Rights Watch has commended this recognition and has called for; 

“Iraq authorities to ensure everyone in pretrial detention a speedy and fair trial or release. Detention before trial should be the exception, not the rule. We are also pushing for detainees to be transferred to official prisons that are accessible to visitors, including government inspectors, independent monitors, relatives, and lawyers".

Read more here.

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