GENEVA (12 August 2019) – A UN human rights expert has expressed serious concerns for seven French nationals currently in Iraq where they await execution on terrorism charges, and said the French Government should press for their return home to stand fair trial.
Fodil Tahar Aouidate, Mourad Delhomme, Karam El Harchaoui, Bilel Kabaoui, Léonard Lopez, Brahim Nejara and Vianney Ouraghi were sentenced to death in Iraq on charges of "membership of a terrorist organization". They were arrested by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and subsequently transferred to Iraq in February at the alleged request of the French Government or with its suspected involvement, said Agnes Callamard, the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions.
Once in Iraq, they were reportedly subject to torture or other ill-treatment, said Callamard.
"There are serious allegations that the sentences were handed down following unfair trials, with the accused having no adequate legal representation or effective consular assistance," the Special Rapporteur said.
"These persons have been transferred to a country whose legal system is marred by very serious structural problems, where the death penalty is regularly applied against alleged members of the Islamic State, and where victims of the same Islamic State are not represented in mass and hastily arranged trials, without providing an opportunity for justice to take its course.
"In these circumstances, the transfer of persons to Iraq for prosecution is illegal. I am particularly disturbed by allegations that France may have had a role in this transfer, given the risk involved of torture and unfair trials and that they would likely face the death penalty.
"A state cannot impose the death penalty in violation of international law. No other State, therefore, can provide it with assistance, when the death penalty could be imposed in this fashion," Callamard said. "Concerned countries should instead ensure that their nationals can return home to be prosecuted in a manner consistent with international law, so that justice can be done.
"I encourage the French Government to step up its effort on behalf of these seven nationals, as well as for any other French national detained in Iraq, to ensure that they are not arbitrarily deprived of their lives and that they can be prosecuted in France in a spirit of genuine accountability and respect for the rule of law."
“While the Government of France, as well as the Government of Iraq, has not yet had the opportunity to consider and respond to these latest concerns in detail, I trust that it will do its utmost to protect the right to life of its nationals in Iraq, irrespective of the accusations against them, and I look forward to continuing the dialogue with the authorities concerned to prevent their execution”, said the Special Rapporteur.
Ms Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executionshas a distinguished career in human rights and humanitarian work globally. Ms Callamard is the Director of Columbia Global Freedom of Expression at Columbia University and has previously worked with Article 19 and Amnesty International. She has advised multilateral organizations and governments around the world, has led human rights investigations in more than 30 countries, and has published extensively on human rights and related fields.
The Special Rapporteurs are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent from any government or organization and serve in their individual capacity.
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