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Iraqi authorities have issued arrest warrants for at least 15 private lawyers since July 24, 2017, on charges of ISIS affiliation for their past work in ISIS courts, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Thursday.
While lawyers are not immune from prosecution if they engage in criminal activity, they should not be prosecuted for doing their job as lawyers, nor should the authorities associate them with their clients’ cause simply because they represented them, HRW said.
All were representing ISIS suspects facing trial in Iraqi courts at the time of their arrest, raising concerns among local lawyers that the warrants were issued to intimidate lawyers defending ISIS suspects.
One senior judge told Human Rights Watch that since the warrants were issued, private lawyers had stopped taking cases of any defendants that they believed to be ISIS-affiliated, only taking cases of people they thought were innocent. As a result, only state-appointed lawyers are taking on the cases of those believed to be ISIS-affiliated.
Based on interviews with four lawyers, there are serious concerns that the state-appointed lawyers are not providing a robust defense of these clients.
“The authorities should immediately explain why they are detaining and charging these lawyers,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“They need to make it clear that Iraqi lawyers should not be afraid to defend ISIS suspects.”
The 15 lawyers represented suspects before the Nineveh governorate’s counterterrorism court. The court has jurisdiction over cases of people currently held in the governate, which includes the city of Mosul, who are suspected of ISIS affiliation.
The court currently operates in the town of al-Hamdaniya, also known as Qaraqosh or Bakhdida. A senior judge told Human Rights Watch researchers when they visited the court in July that the court was working through about 2,000 cases involving people suspected of being ISIS members or affiliated with the group.
Reporting by: Wladimir van Wilgenburg | Source: ARA News
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