An Iraqi criminal court on Sunday sentenced to death 15 Turkish women after finding them guilty of belonging to the ISIS terrorist group, a judicial official said.
Iraq is conducting the trials of hundreds of foreign women who have been detained, with hundreds of their children, since August by Iraqi forces as ISIS strongholds crumbled.
The central criminal court issued the sentences “after it was proven they belong to the Daesh terrorist group and after they confessed to marrying Daesh elements or providing members of the group with logistical aid or helping them carry out terrorist attacks,” said Judge Abdul-Sattar al-Birqdar, referring to the militant group using an Arabic acronym.
Iraq has detained at least 560 women and 600 children identified as militants or relatives of ISIS militants.
In January, a court sentenced a German woman to death on charges of providing logistical support to ISIS militants, and a Turkish woman was, earlier in February, also handed the death penalty.
Human Rights Watch denounced the rulings as “unfair”.
Earlier this week, a Baghdad court sentenced a French woman, Melina Boughedir, to seven months in jail for entering Iraq illegally but ordered her release on time already served.
Baghdad declared military victory over ISIS in December, after having expelled the jihadists from all urban centers they had held in northern and western Iraq since 2014.
Experts estimate that 20,000 people are being held in jail in Iraq for alleged membership of ISIS. There is no official figure.
Iraq’s anti-terrorism law empowers courts to convict people who are believed to have helped ISIS even if they are not accused of carrying out attacks.
It also allows for the death penalty to be issued against anyone — including non-combatants — found guilty of belonging to ISIS.
Human Rights Watch said on Sunday (February 25) that Iraq is denying relatives of suspected SIS group security clearance to obtain identity cards, in what amounts to a form of “collective punishment”,
“Iraqi security officers are routinely denying relatives of suspected ISIS members the security clearance needed to obtain identity cards and other documents, ” HRW said.
“Denying government benefits because of perceived family relationships instead of individual security determinations is a form of collective punishment prohibited under international human rights law.”
The New York-based rights watchdog said in a statement that without proper documentation these individuals cannot move freely in fear of arrest, nor can they apply for jobs or welfare benefits.
Children denied birth certificates “may be considered stateless and may not be allowed to enroll in school”, while widows who fail to get death certificates for their husbands cannot inherit or remarry, it said.
“Iraq’s security forces are marginalizing thousands of families of ISIS suspects by depriving them of the basic documents they need to rebuild their lives,” said HRW’s deputy Middle East director Lama Fakih.
“Unless this collective punishment stops, the authorities will be further destabilizing the situation in Mosul and other former ISIS-held cities,” she said.
HRW said it had interviewed 18 people in Mosul, including lawyers, aid workers and security officials, for its report since late January.
“The Iraqi government has valid security concerns that ISIS members sought for serious crimes should not be able to get fake identity documents,” Fakih said.
“But keeping women and children who did nothing wrong beyond having a relative join ISIS out of work, out of school, and in fear of arrest every day will do nothing to foster reconciliation in Iraq.”