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Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance

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In the early years of the 21st Century, 2000 to 2025                                            


The use of torture to obtain confessions is widespread, including in death penalty cases. In 2018, the government continued to expedite executions of those convicted of terrorism. Detainees are often held in harsh, overcrowded conditions, and forced disappearances, particularly of suspected IS fighters, have been reported.

.  [Freedom House Country Report, 2020]

Description: Description: Description: Iraq

CAUTION:  The following links have been culled from the web to illuminate the situation in Iraq.  Some of these links may lead to websites that present allegations that are unsubstantiated or even false.  No attempt has been made to validate their authenticity or to verify their content.



If you are looking for material to use in a term-paper, you are advised to scan the postings on this page and others to see which aspects of Torture by Authorities are of particular interest to you.  You might be interested in exploring the moral justification for inflicting pain or inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment in order to obtain critical information that may save countless lives, or to elicit a confession for a criminal act, or to punish someone to teach him a lesson outside of the courtroom.  Perhaps your paper might focus on some of the methods of torture, like fear, extreme temperatures, starvation, thirst, sleep deprivation, suffocation, or immersion in freezing water.  On the other hand, you might choose to write about the people acting in an official capacity who perpetrate such cruelty.  There is a lot to the subject of Torture by Authorities.  Scan other countries as well as this one.  Draw comparisons between activity in adjacent countries and/or regions.  Meanwhile, check out some of the Term-Paper resources that are available on-line.

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2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Iraq

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, 30 March 2021

[accessed 25 July 2021]


Human rights organizations reported that both Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Defense personnel tortured detainees. UNAMI/OHCHR reported that some detained protesters were subjected to various mistreatment during interrogation, including severe beatings, electric shocks, hosing or bathing in cold water, being hung from the ceiling by the arms and legs, death threats and threats to their families, as well as degrading treatment (such as being urinated on or being photographed naked). In the same report, women interviewees described being beaten and threatened with rape and sexual assault. A local NGO in June reported that dozens of torture cases were recorded in detention centers in Ninewa, Salah al-Din, Kirkuk, Anbar, Dhi Qar, and Baghdad.


Prison and detention center conditions were harsh and occasionally life threatening due to food shortages, gross overcrowding, physical abuse, inadequate sanitary conditions and medical care, and the threat of COVID-19 and other communicable illnesses.


Human rights organizations reported that government forces, including the ISF (including the Federal Police), NSS, PMF, Peshmerga, and Asayish, frequently ignored the law. Local media and human rights groups reported that authorities arrested suspects in security sweeps without warrants, particularly under the antiterrorism law, and frequently held such detainees for prolonged periods without charge or registration.

Boys released from Kurdistan prisons face rearrest, torture in Iraq: Report

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24), 23 December 2018

[accessed 23 December 2018]

One, who HRW called "Karim" to protect his identity, told of being rearrested by Iraqi forces after being released by the KRG and returning to his village outside Mosul. He was held for 45 days, during which he was tortured. He was then transferred to a prison at Baghdad International Airport where officers beat him four times with plastic pipes before he finally was taken to a courtroom.

He was released after he told a judge he had been tortured during interrogations after already serving a full sentence at a reformatory in Erbil.

Others monitoring the situation of the boys told HRW that they knew of at least five who had returned home and were rearrested but had not been seen since.

Freedom House Country Report

2020 Edition

[accessed 17 May 2020]


The use of torture to obtain confessions is widespread, including in death penalty cases. In 2018, the government continued to expedite executions of those convicted of terrorism. Detainees are often held in harsh, overcrowded conditions, and forced disappearances, particularly of suspected IS fighters, have been reported.

Human Rights Watch World Report 2015 - Events of 2014

Human Rights Watch, 29 January 2015 or

[accessed 18 March 2015]


ABUSES BY SECURITY FORCES AND GOVERNMENT-BACKED MILITIAS - In March, former Prime Minister al-Maliki told senior security advisers that he would form a new security force consisting of three militias: Asa’ib, Kita’ib Hezbollah, and the Badr Brigades. These militias kidnapped and murdered Sunni civilians throughout Baghdad, Diyala, and Hilla provinces, at a time when the armed conflict between government forces and Sunni insurgents was intensifying. According to witnesses and medical and government sources, pro-government militias were responsible for the killing of 61 Sunni men between June 1 and July 9, 2014, and the killing of at least 48 Sunni men in March and April in villages and towns in an area known as the “Baghdad Belt.” Dozens of residents of five towns in the Baghdad Belt said that security forces, alongside governmentbacked militias, attacked their towns, kidnapping and killing residents and setting fire to their homes, livestock, and crops.

A survivor of an attack on a Sunni mosque in eastern Diyala province in August said that members of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq entered the mosque during the Friday prayer, shot and killed the imam, and then opened fire on the other men in the mosque, killing at least 70 people. Three other Diyala residents reported that Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq had kidnapped and killed their relatives. Iraqi security forces and militias affiliated with the government were responsible for the unlawful execution of at least 255 prisoners in six Iraqi cities and towns in June. The vast majority of security forces and militias are Shia, while the murdered prisoners were Sunni. At least eight of those killed were boys under age 18.

Iraq illegally Jailed thousands of Women, Torture & Abuse Alleged

Juan Cole, Human Rights Watch HRW, Baghdad, 11 Feb. 2014

[accessed 16 February 2014]

Iraqi authorities are detaining thousands of Iraqi women illegally and subjecting many to torture and ill-treatment, including the threat of sexual abuse. Iraq’s weak judiciary, plagued by corruption, frequently bases convictions on coerced confessions, and trial proceedings fall far short of international standards. Many women were detained for months or even years without charge before seeing a judge.

Iraqi Women 'Tortured And Raped' In Detention

Zein Ja'Far, Sky News, 6 February 2014

[accessed 7 Feb 2014]

[accessed 31 December 2017]

"A man handcuffed both my hands and feet, and made me lay on my stomach. He took my clothes off and started to hit my face and my eyes."   Fatima alleges she was later coerced into confessing to a crime she didn't commit.   "You've just been raped, beaten and insulted and then they say they will do the same to her daughter if you don't confess what they tell you.   "What can you do then? You will surely say you have committed those crimes. You will say whatever they want to protect your child."

One detainee, waiting on death row in a Baghdad prison, told the organisation she needed crutches after enduring more than a week of beatings and electric shocks.   Despite subsequent medical reports supporting her allegations of torture she was executed seven months later.

Torture and hangings a trademark of Maliki's reign

World Bulletin / News Desk, 27 Jan 2014

[accessed 28 Jan 2014]

One particular detainee on death row is Saudi national Abdullah al-Qahtani, who was jailed for an armed robbery on a goldsmith’s shop in November 2009. He was accused of carrying out the robbery to fund terrorism.

However, Abdullah al-Qahtani was later proven to have already been in police custody between October 2009 and April 2010 on immigration charges, so it would have been impossible for him to have carried out the robbery. Despite this being stated in official government papers, his hanging still looms.

As he currently waits to be taken to the execution chamber, his lawyer has reported to the Independent’s Robert Fisk that al-Qahtani has been subjected to torture, including being hung up by the wrists and beaten with a broom stick. He also has cigarette burns on his body.

Furthermore, his lawyer stated that even though all of his co-defendants later retracted their confessions due to it having been given under torture, all of them were executed regardless.

Maliki's Iraq: Rape, Executions and Torture

Dahr Jamail, Al Jazeera | Report, 21 March 2013

[accessed 22 March 2013]

One Iraqi woman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said her nephew was first detained when he was just 18. Held under the infamous Article Four which gives the government the ability to arrest anyone "suspected" of terrorism, he was charged with terrorism. She told, in detail, of how her nephew was treated:

"They beat him with metal pipes, used harsh curse words and swore against his sect and his Allah (because he is Sunni) and why God was not helping him, and that they would bring up the prisoners' mothers and sisters to rape them," she explained to Al Jazeera. "Then they used electricity to burn different places of his body. They took all his cloths off in winter and left them naked out in the yard to freeze."

Her nephew, who was released after four years imprisonment after the Iraqi appeals court deemed him innocent, was then arrested 10 days after his release, again under Article 4. This law gives the government of Prime Minister Maliki broad license to detain Iraqis. Article four and other laws provide the government the ability to impose the death penalty for nearly 50 crimes, including terrorism, kidnapping, and murder, but also for offenses such as damage to public property.

While her nephew was free, he informed his aunt of how he and other detainees were tortured.

"They made some other inmates stand barefoot during Iraq's summer on burning concrete pavement to have sunburn, and without drinking water until they fainted. They took some of them, broke so many of their bones, mutilated their faces with a knife and threw them back in the cell to let the others know that this is what will happen to them."

She said her nephew was tortured daily, as he wouldn't confess to a crime he says he didn't commit. He wouldn't give names of his co-conspirators, as there were none, she said.

"Finally, after the death of many of his inmates under torture, he agreed to sign up a false confession written by the interrogators, even though he had witnesses who have seen him in another place the day that crime has happened," she added.

He remains in prison, where he has told his aunt he is now being tortured by militiamen and one of his eyes has been lanced by them.

Iraq: A Broken Justice System

Human Rights Watch, Baghdad

[accessed 31 January 2013]


The number of violent civilian deaths in Iraq increased in 2012, for the first time since 2009. Thousands of civilians and police were killed in spates of violence, including targeted assassinations, amid a political crisis that has dragged on since December 2011. Alongside the uptick in violence, Iraqi security forces arbitrarily conducted mass arrests and tortured detainees to extract confessions with little or no evidence of wrongdoing.

Most recently, in November, federal police invaded 11 homes in the town of al-Tajji, north of Baghdad, and detained 41 people, including 29 children, overnight in their homes. Sources close to the detainees, who requested anonymity, said police took 12 women and girls ages 11 to 60 to 6th Brigade headquarters and held them there for four days without charge. The sources said the police beat the women and tortured them with electric shocks and plastic bags placed over their heads until they began to suffocate.

Despite widespread outcry over abuse and rape of women in pre-trial detention, the government has not investigated or held the abusers accountable. In response to mass protests over the treatment of female detainees, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki issued a pardon for 11 detainees. However, hundreds more women remain in detention, many of whom allege they have been tortured and have not had access to a proper defense.


From an old article -- URL not available

Article was published sometime prior to 2015


Torture and other ill-treatment were common and widespread in prisons and detention centres, particularly those controlled by the Ministries of the Interior and Defence, and were committed with impunity. Methods included suspension by the limbs for long periods, beatings with cables and hosepipes, the infliction of electric shocks, breaking of limbs, partial asphyxiation with plastic bags, and sexual abuse including threats of rape. Torture was used to extract information from detainees and “confessions” that could be used as evidence against them at trial.

Nabhan ‘Adel Hamid, Mu’ad Muhammad ‘Abed, ‘Amer Ahmad Kassar and Shakir Mahmoud ‘Anad were arrested in Ramadi and Fallujah at the end of March/early April. They were reported to have been tortured while held incommunicado for several weeks at the Directorate of Counter-Crime in Ramadi. Their “confessions” were then broadcast on local television. When brought to trial, they told the Anbar Criminal Court that they had been forced under torture to “confess” to assisting in murder. Witness testimony of fellow detainees supported their torture allegations. A medical examination of one defendant recorded burns and injuries consistent with torture. Despite this, all four men were sentenced to death on 3 December. No independent investigation into their torture allegations was known to have been held.


Several detainees died in custody in circumstances suggesting that torture or other ill-treatment caused or contributed to their deaths.

Amer Sarbut Zaidan al-Battawi, a former bodyguard of Vice-President al-Hashemi, died in detention in March. His family alleged that marks on his body had been caused by torture. Authorities denied that his death was caused by torture and announced further investigations.

Samir NajiAwda al-Bilawi, a pharmacist, and his 13-year-old son, Mundhir, were detained by security forces at a vehicle checkpoint in Ramadi in September. Three days later, his family learned that Samir NajiAwda al-Bilawi had died in custody. Images they released to Iraqi media showed injuries to his head and both hands. Following his release, Mundhir said he and his father had been assaulted at a police station then taken to the Directorate of Counter-Crime in Ramadi and tortured, including with electric shocks. He said he was ordered to tell an investigating judge that his father was connected to a terrorist organization. Lawyers for the family were allowed to read but not copy an official autopsy report that reportedly said Samir NajiAwda al-Bilawi’s death was due to torture, including electric shocks. No action was known to have been taken against those responsible by the end of the year:



Freedom House Country Report - Political Rights: 6   Civil Liberties: 6   Status: Not Free

2009 Edition

[accessed 31 January 2013]

LONG URL   ç 2009 Country Reports begin on Page 21

[accessed 12 May 2020]

The criminal procedure code and the constitution prohibit arbitrary arrest and detention, though both practices are common in security-related cases. There have been credible reports of illegal detention facilities run by the Interior Ministry and party-sponsored militias. The constitution prohibits all forms of torture and inhumane treatment and affords victims the right to compensation, but neither coalition nor Iraqi authorities have established effective safeguards against the mistreatment of detainees. Allegations of torture by security services have been serious and widespread. KRG laws similarly prohibit inhumane treatment of detainees, but it is widely acknowledged that Kurdish security forces practice illegal detention and questionable interrogation tactics. Detainees in coalition custody have also experienced torture and mistreatment.

Human Rights Reports » 2005 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

U.S. Dept of State Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, March 8, 2006

[accessed 31 January 2013]

[accessed 4 July 2019]

TORTURE AND OTHER CRUEL, INHUMAN, OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT – The TAL expressly prohibits torture in all its forms under all circumstances, as well as cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment. However, security forces employed such practices. Insurgents and terrorists frequently committed torture and other abuses (see section 1.g.).

According to a January Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, police torture and ill treatment of detainees was commonplace. In interviews with 90 prisoners, 72 asserted that they had been tortured or mistreated. The reported abuses included beatings with cables and hosepipes, electric shocks to earlobes and genitals, food and water deprivation, and overcrowding in standing-room-only cells.

On February 6, Baktiar Amin, the former minister of human rights, noted to then prime minister Allawi that detention centers under the MOI's control were a "theater of violations of human rights." In addition to poor living conditions and arrests and detentions carried out without judicial orders, the minister stated that the MOI systematically tortured and abused detainees. Specific violations were attributed to personnel of the Major Crimes Unit, the Intelligence Directorate, and local police.

On November 13, an overcrowded MOI detention center in Baghdad was discovered. This facility, the Jadiriyah Bunker, held 169 detainees, mostly Sunnis, many of whom showed signs of torture and abuse. A number of the detainees were severely malnourished and said that police had only given them bread to eat for several months. The facility was shut down, and the detainees were subsequently transferred to a Ministry of Justice (MOJ) prison.

In December the IIT conducted three unannounced inspections. On December 8, officials investigated a second MOI facility, the Iraqi Police Commando Division Central Facility for Baghdad. This police station building held 625 detainees in conditions so crowded that detainees were unable to lie down at the same time. According to press reports, a government official with first-hand knowledge said that at least 12 prisoners had been subjected to severe torture with electric shock, had fingernails torn out, and suffered broken bones from beatings. Due to the severe abuse, 13 of the detainees were referred for medical care. Sixty prisoners were recommended for immediate release, and 75 were moved to an MOJ detention facility. While no confirmation was available at year's end, detainees claimed that six of their group had died in custody.

The IIT assessment of all three sites indicated inadequate living conditions, health services and legal access. At one of the sites IIT found evidence of recent physical abuse and torture. IIT submitted three separate reports with recommendations to the prime minister's office.

Police abuses included threats, intimidation, beatings, and suspension by the arms or legs, as well as the reported use of electric drills and cords, and the application of electric shocks. Reportedly, police threatened or, in fact, sexually abused detainees.

For example, a woman detained in the Diwaniyah police station claimed in early May that police had administered electric shocks to the soles of her feet and threatened to abuse sexually her teenage daughters if she did not provide the information they demanded.

On October 14, Najaf security forces arrested an associate of the former provincial governor and allegedly tortured him in an effort to obtain a confession. The arrested individual reportedly appeared at his court hearing the following day, unable to walk. MOI officials agreed to open an investigation of the case, but no information has been made available. The individual remained in custody at year's end.

According to the MOJ's Iraqi Corrections Service (ICS) officials, prisoners routinely exhibited signs of mistreatment upon transfer from police custody to the prisons. ICS investigated or referred to MOI 14 cases of police abuse during the year, some of which involved torture. For example, officials at Baghdad's Rusafa intake facility reported on February 8 that medical staff treated an inmate for injuries following his transfer from police custody. The inmate said he had been interrogated by police at the Kadamiya police station following arrest on a murder charge. The inmate stated that police severely beat him during the interrogation and told him that he would be killed if he spoke of the abuse. On June 27, a medical examination of a new prisoner at Baghdad's Rusafa intake facility revealed a leg broken in two places. The man told officials that police had broken his leg while he was in their custody.

Some detainees in military custody alleged abuse that included hanging inmates upside down until they lost consciousness, beating with wooden and plastic sticks, weapons, and electric cords, and the use of electric shocks and stun guns.

Two men reported that military personnel detained and beat them on May 6 and 11, respectively, in Iskandariyah. On July 7, the Army detained a man in Tikrit, who reported he was blindfolded and his hands and ankles bound before he was hung by a rope from the ceiling. He was beaten with a cable for approximately 10 minutes before being doused with cold water. On July 23, the Army detained another man near Tal Afar, reportedly beating him with an iron pipe for 30 minutes during the interrogation.

Also in July, army officers in Tikrit reportedly blindfolded, handcuffed, and beat a detainee on his head and back with a rifle butt. He was then suspended from the ceiling with bound ankles and struck repeatedly across the legs with a cable. A medical examination confirmed abrasions, swelling, and bruising consistent with the detainee's claims.

In August army officials reportedly detained a man in the Saqlawiyah area, beating him before suspending him from a ceiling fan by his bound ankles.

Kurdish security forces committed abuses against non-Kurdish minorities in the North, including Christians, Shabak, Turcomen, and Arabs. Abuse ranged from threats and intimidation to detention in undisclosed locations without due process (see section 1.d.). Verification or assessment of credibility of claimed torture and abuses by KRG officials was extremely difficult. The press reported that police tortured a Turcoman vegetable seller after he was arrested on March 17 and taken to the Megdad KRG police station.

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Cite this webpage as: Patt, Prof. Martin, " Torture by Police, Forced Disappearance & Other Ill Treatment in the early years of the 21st Century- Iraq",, [accessed <date>]