Iraq: UN experts express their concerns for the safety of an activist arrested in Basra and prosecuted over his views
Translated and edited by: Committee for Justice
Geneva: 5 April 2022
UN experts have expressed concern about the arrest by the authorities in Basra Governorate, Iraq, of human rights defender Ammar Al-Halfi, who has taken part in the demonstrations in the governorate since July 2018.
Arrest and torture:
The experts stated in their memo sent to the authorities in Iraq on February 2, 2022,(which has not yet been answered), that Halfi was arrested on December 19, 2021 while receiving the national identity card in the Basra center by two people in civilian clothes claiming they were from the intelligence services, without an arrest warrant, and for allegedly inciting demonstrations. His fate was hidden from his family and lawyer. In a later post on Facebook, apparently published during his detention, he wrote: “My brothers: they arrested me and took me to the intelligence. Please stand by me,” confirming the leadership of Basra police subsequently arrested him, adding that he was arrested under the anti-terror law.
The experts added that on December 28, 2021, Halfi was transferred from the detention center of the Intelligence Directorate in Basra to the detention center of the Directorate for Combating Crime, for security reasons, as he was reportedly threatened during detention by other inmates.
The experts indicated that on December 30, 2021, Halfi appeared before the investigative judge in Basra, where a new charge was added to his previous charges. As a result, the investigative judge extended his pretrial detention until January 7, 2022, to complete the investigation. But on December 31, information was received that he was admitted to hospital for treatment due to his deteriorating health in custody.
The experts indicated that Halfi was released on bail on January 10, 2022, and is currently awaiting trial, for which a hearing date has not yet been set.
Concerns about the actions of the Basra police:
The experts expressed their concerns about the allegedly arbitrary nature of Halfi’s arrest, apparently related to his exercise of his right to freedom of expression online to criticize the local government and its policies. The experts also expressed other serious concerns given that the Basra Police Command has a well-established history of torture, amid concern over the physical and psychological integrity of Halfi.
The experts called on the Iraqi authorities to provide any additional information on the aforementioned allegations, with a statement of the legal basis for the arrest and detention of Halfi, and the charges against him.