Iraqi Kurdish officials plan to establish a special criminal court to prosecute accused members of the Islamic State (IS) in a move that could lead to high-ranking members of the terror group being brought to Iraq to face trial.
Legislation presented to the Kurdish parliament on Wednesday has raised the possibility that suspects detained in the years since the extremist group’s collapse could be transferred to a court in the northern city of Erbil for prosecution with international backing.
While the court will initially deal with suspects accused of committing crimes within Iraq, Erbil’s political leaders have pointed to the possibility that it may also be used to try detained members in the Middle East and beyond.
The legislation was drafted with the support of the United Nations Unitad, which was created to bring ISIS suspects to justice. However, the world body has not provided funds to establish the court.
The prime minister of the Kurdish regional government, Masrour Barzani, said that, once approved, “the laws will create the necessary legal framework to prosecute IS terrorists for their crimes against our peoples and humanity in general. The KRG [Kurdish regional government]Iraq and the international community have a solemn duty to hold IS terrorists accountable. “
Unitad special adviser Karim Khan QC said the organization was supporting a parallel process in the Baghdad national parliament.
“Similar legislation that guarantees the investigation and prosecution of [Isis] for international crimes in Iraqi courts is currently proceeding through the federal parliament, ”he said. “Unitad has also provided technical assistance and support for this legislation, and looks forward to its adoption as soon as possible.”
Senior officials say that while Kurdish hearings will initially focus on those already in local custody, the possibility of moving the detained suspects out of Iraq and bringing them to trial under local law is being considered. Such a move would be the first in global attempts to hold Isis members accountable, and it is unclear whether jurisdictional and other legal issues could be resolved beforehand.
What to do about ISIS members, many of whom are being held in prisons or detention centers across the Middle East, has upset regional governments and raised security concerns in Europe and the United States, where officials have been urging to judicial solutions for thousands of accused members in custody.
Up to 40,000 people who led the remnants of the so-called Caliphate of Isis when it was defeated on the battlefields of eastern Syria in early 2019 remain in two detention centers run by Syrian Kurds. Despite demands that the camps be closed and many detainees relocated to Iraq, Baghdad and Erbil, the northern semi-autonomous Kurdish capital, have been unable to agree on a location.
Kurdish officials have insisted that any relocated camp, which would be largely made up of accused Iraqi ISIS members and their families, must be in the deserts of Anbar province and far from its borders.
Baghdad officials wanted the new camps to be established in the north, near where Isis forces have invaded Mosul and the Nineveh Plains since 2014, leaving its people scattered and enslaved and much of the landscape burned.
Thousands of accused ISIS members have been detained in Iraq, and many have been brought before local courts in circumstances described by human rights groups as mock trials in which death sentences have often been handed down after 15-minute proceedings. and without statements from the accused.
In addition, large numbers of Sunni Muslims had until recently been interned in camps both in the Kurdish north and in adjacent Arab areas, unable or unwilling to return to their homes for fear of persecution by the Shiite militias that dominate them. its former inhabitants. neighborhoods.
Many of those camps were forcibly closed late last year, with their occupants seeking refuge elsewhere in Iraq or choosing to return to their towns and villages, where they faced uncomfortable or hostile receptions.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism