After regaining Mosul, Iraq continues steadfast prosecution of ISIS

By:Justin D. Santabarbara
Impunity Watch Reporter, Middle East

Iraqi Security Forces Detain a suspected ISIS fighter (Photo Courtesy of Human Rights Watch). 

Since the Iraqi government regained control of Mosul and much of its northern provinces from the Islamic State in recent weeks, much emphasis has been placed on rebuilding the punitive institutions of government. In rebuilding its criminal justice capacity, Iraq has sought the counsel of the United Nations Human Rights reports, which began implicating the Islamic State human rights abuses in 2015. Together, with independent militia groups, Iraq’s Executive Office, under Haider Al-Abadi and the United Nations, launched an investigatory campaign in 2016. In August 2017, the Iraqi government charged a number of ISIS fighters in absentia with crimes against humanity. Al-Abadi is expected to formally address the United Nations Security Council in the coming weeks. He will likely request that the Security Council adopt a formal resolution to aid in the charging and capture of ISIS fighters.

The Iraqi government and the United Nations have focused the majority of its attention on balancing the sectarian divisions that continued to exist throughout the country. Since the Islamic State divided much of Iraq, the Shia-backed Iraqi military was forced to alienate many of its previous Sunni allies in pursuit of repelling ISIS. Additionally, Yazidis and Kurds have been historically persecuted by both Sunni and Shia. Until Al-Abadi gained the aid of western military forces in recovering Mosul, much of the Northern provinces were neglected, which left Yazidis and Kurds with little support. Al-Abadi’s most arduous challenge will continue to be regaining the trust of these religious sects, while also being successful in repelling ISIS fighters from the region. Human Rights Watch has been highly critical of the Iraqi government’s response to many of these groups, citing their continued detention and torturing of minority sects as a mechanism for screening their loyalties to ISIS.

The Iraqi investigation has faced much criticism from Human Rights Watch. It reports that ISIS fighters continue to be tried arbitrarily and with prejudice. While the imperative for national security remains a central priority for the government, Human Rights Watch has nearly 2,000 trials that have universally resulted in convictions and stringent sentences. Moreover, Human Rights Watch reports that Iraqi security forces have begun prosecuting lawyers, both domestic and international, that are representing the alleged ISIS fighters. Additionally, Iraqi courts do not issue different sentences for minor involvement or otherwise. The sentences have near universally been undisclosed, or death. Iraq continues its roundup by seeking additional avenues of criminal conduct. Among them include the possibility of charging doctors and other officials working under the Islamic State, but not directly toward their combative interests.

For more information, please see:

CBC News – Sectarian divisions exploited by ISIS still endure in Iraq – 5 September 2017

Human Rights First – Iraq Finally Holds ISIS Responsible for Crimes Against Humanity – 1 September 2017 

Human Rights Watch – The Justice Question After ISIS – 25 August 2017

Cambodia’s Main Opposition Leader Arrested for Treason

By: Brian Kim
Impunity Watch Reporter, Asia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia – On Sunday, September 3rd, Cambodia’s main opposition leader, Kem Sokha, was arrested for treason. He is accused of violating Article 443 which prevents officials from “colluding with foreigners.” If convicted, Mr. Sokha could face a 30 year jail term.

Kem Sokha was arrested outside his house in Phnom Penh. Photo courtesy of New York Times.

The opposition leader was arrested during a heavy crackdown on critics of Prime Minister Sen’s government. The government officals accused Mr. Sokha of discussing plots with the United States government to undermine Cambodia.

The government, as evidence, disclosed a four-year-old video of Mr. Sokha giving a speech and stating that he has received advice from the United States government on establishing an opposition group in Cambodia.

According to Mr. Sokha’s daughter, Ken Monovithya, more than 100 police officers surrounded their home and arrest her father without a warrant. She stated that Mr. Sokha was handcuffed and escorted to an unmarked vehicle by numerous officers. It is reported that he is currently being held at a remote prison near the Vietnamese boarder. He has not been given an opportunity to speak to an attorney.

Upon Mr. Sokha’s arrest, the United States Embassy in Phnom Penh commented that the charges “appear to be politically motivated.”

The Cambodia’s Prime Minister, Hun Sen, and his ruling Cambodian People’s Party will face a tough election next year. After ruling the country for more than three decades, Mr. Sen’s critics have accused him of trying to eliminate his oppositions prior to the upcoming election.

The New York based Human Rights Watch group has recently stated that “the government and the ruling CPP have manufactured these treason charges against Kem Sokha for political purposes, aiming to try and knock the political opposition out of the ring before the 2018 electoral contest ever begins.”

NYT – Cambodia Arrests Opposition Leader, Accusing Him of Treason – 2 September, 2017

Reuters – Cambodia charges opposition leader with treason – 5 September, 2017

Aljazeera – Cambodia politician Kem Sokha charged with treason – 6 September, 2017