UK Government signals it could back Britons in Syria facing death penalty in Iraq

April 11, 2019

Image of prisoners in Iraq

The UK Government has given the clearest indication yet of its preferred destination for British nationals detained in North East Syria, explicitly opposing their transfer to the Assad regime or the US facility at Guantanamo Bay, but confirming it is in “regular discussions” with the Government of Iraq about how to “achieve justice”.

It was reported yesterday that Iraq has offered to try such prisoners for a price of £2 million per head – a figure pegged to the annual cost of imprisoning and individual at Guantanamo Bay.

If British detainees were handed over to Iraq they would likely face the death penalty with no prospect of a fair trial. Human Rights Watch has reported that trials of suspected IS members “are summary and often do not put forward evidence of specific offences”, while “interrogators routinely use torture to extract confessions, and in most cases judges ignore torture allegations from defendants”.

The UK Government itself has previously acknowledged the widespread use of torture and the death penalty across the Iraqi criminal justice system.

Reprieve’s Director Maya Foa said: “By outsourcing justice to the Iraqi courts, the UK Government would create a real risk of British citizens being sentenced to death in ten minute trials. Accountability and justice for the crimes committed will only come through fair trials and effective prosecutions, not through torture and summary executions. Britons currently held in the camps should be brought home and, where appropriate, face British justice, in British courts, in accordance with the Government’s longstanding opposition to the death penalty.”