Annual Report 2013
The state of the world's human rights
4 February 2011
Amnesty International has urged authorities in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI) to ensure the fair trial of a man charged with terrorism-related offences 11 years after his arrest.
Walid Yunis Ahmad, was arrested on 6 February 2000 and was held for 10 years without charge or trial. Recently, after international pressure for his release or trial, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) authorities charged him with involvement in "terrorist" activities allegedly committed in 2009 when he had already been in prison for more than nine years.
"That Walid Yunis Ahmad should have been charged now after so long in detention without charge or trial raises both suspicion and concern that these charges have been fabricated," said Malcolm Smart, Director of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Amnesty International.
"We are concerned that the authorities are using the charges to justify his long detention without trial – if so, this would be a serious violation of Iraq's obligations under international human rights law and Iraq's own constitution - and to prolong his imprisonment indefinitely."
Walid Yunis Ahmad was arrested by the Asayish (Kurdish security forces) in Erbil, the capital of the KRI, after he was given a lift in a car that allegedly contained explosives as he made his way home from a meeting of the Islamic Movement in Kurdistan, a legal opposition party.
A member of the minority Turkmen ethnic group in Iraq, he was working as a translator and programme organizer for a local radio and TV station, apparently affiliated to the party, at the time of his arrest.
Walid Yunis Ahmad has always denied knowing the vehicle was carrying explosives.
The driver, who was also arrested, was released three months later.
For the next three years, the authorities did not tell Walid's family where he was being held or whether he was dead or alive.
He was reportedly tortured, kept in solitary confinement and moved from prison to prison without explanation.
In the last five or six months he has been held at the Asayish prison in the city of Duhok, northeast of the KRI, awaiting trial. Amnesty International delegates visited him in prison in Erbil in June 2010.
On several occasions throughout his detention, KRG officials have told Amnesty International that they could not prosecute him because the anti-terrorism law, introduced six years after his arrest, could not be applied retrospectively.
The KRG also said they could not apply the Iraqi Penal Code because it did not, according to them, cover terrorism offences.
However, the Code does contain numerous provisions relating to acts harmful to internal or external state security that could have been used to bring charges if there were evidence against Walid Yunis Ahmad.
"The Kurdish authorities must take concrete steps to ensure that the rights of Walid Yunis Ahmad are fully respected and that he is tried promptly and fairly on genuine, recognizable charges or released without further delay." said Malcolm Smart.
"The authorities must protect Walid Yunis Ahmad from further violence while he remains in prison and thoroughly investigate his allegations of torture and other ill-treatment, bringing those responsible to justice."
Walid's case is similar to those of other prisoners featured in Broken bodies, tortured minds: Abuse and neglect of detainees in Iraq, an Amnesty International campaign digest on torture and health conditions in prisons in Iraq to be released on 8 February.
Torture and other ill-treatment were widespread in Iraq before the US-led invasion in 2003 and continued in prisons and detention facilities controlled by coalition forces and the new Iraqi governments.
Suspects held in Iraqi custody since 2004 have been routinely tortured and dozens of detainees have died as a result.
Iraq: Broken bodies, tortured minds: Abuse and neglect of detainees in Iraq (Digest, 8 February 2011)