Children held in Iraq over suspected Isis links ‘say they were tortured’

Children detained by Iraq’s Kurdistan regional government on suspicion of connections to Islamic State say they were tortured, according to a report from an international human rights group.
The children – who have not been formally charged with a crime – said they were held in stress positions, burned with cigarettes, shocked with electricity and beaten with plastic pipes, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW), a New York based international watchdog.
More than 180 boys under the age of 18 are being held, HRW estimates, and government officials have not informed their families where they are, increasing the likelihood of the children being disappeared.
Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch, said: “Legitimate security concerns do not give security forces licence to beat, manhandle, or use electric shocks on children.
“Many children escaping from Isis are victims who need help, yet face further abuse by Asayish [Kurdish security] forces.”
The rights group said it had interviewed 19 boys aged 11 to 17 while they were in custody at a children’s reformatory in Erbil. The group said the interviews had been conducted without a security official or intelligence officer present.
As Iraqi security forces have retaken territory from Isis over the past year and a half, they have also detained hundreds of men and boys.
Many of those detained are likely to have suffered inhumane treatment or been tortured. Rights groups warn that such practices risk sowing resentment against Iraqi security forces in the wake of military victories against Isis.
“If the authorities and the international coalition really care about combatting Isis, they need to look beyond the military solution, and at the policies that have empowered it,” said Belkis Wille, the senior Iraq researcher for HRW.
“Policies like torture, enforced disappearances, destruction of property and displacement are and will continue to [be] drivers for victims’ families to join extremist groups,” she added.
Iraqi forces have pushed Isis out of nearly all the cities and towns the group once held in Iraq. Mosul is the last major urban centre Isis holds in Iraq and Iraqi forces have retaken half the city since the operation was officially launched in October.

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