In a letter addressed to Dr. Dindar Zebari, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s (KRG’s) International Advocacy Coordinator in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), Amnesty International urgently called for a retrial of Abdulrahman Er, who has been sentenced to death. Amnesty International noted that his death sentence was questionably upheld by the Court of Appeal in Erbil on 23 September 2020. It requested the KRG to “refrain from moving forward with any plans for the execution of Abdulrahman Er”.
Amnesty International expressed its “concern regarding claims of torture and other ill-treatment of Abdulrahman Aar, aged 33”, and it urgently sought “clarification about steps taken by the KRG authorities to address these allegations”. Based upon information that it had in its possession, it described the manner in which Abdulrahman Er (also known as Mehmet Beşiksiz), an ethnically Kurdish citizen of Turkey, was tortured and subjected to pre-trial and trial proceedings that fall far-short of international fair trial standards.
Abdulrahman Er’s torture and ill-treatment
It noted that after his arrest in Erbil on 20 July 2019 by the Counter Terrorism Department (CTD) of the KRG for charges relating to the killing of a Turkish diplomat, according to information in its possession, “Abdulrahman Aar was held in pre-trial detention for a period of approximately four months for purposes of interrogation, without access to a lawyer, at an Asayish Gishti detention facility in Erbil. During this period, he was subjected to torture and ill-treatment including beatings and threats of being killed in order to extract a ‘confession’ which he eventually gave under duress. He said he retracted this so-called ‘confession’. Abdulrahman Er was sentenced to death on 11 February 2020 in a court in Erbil. According to him, he had had brief access to a state-appointed lawyer only on the day of the ruling, in court”.
Lack of international fair trial standards
Amnesty International also confirmed that it was “seriously concerned about the use of a televised confession – published in July 2019 – in the case of Abdulrahman Er and several others as it seriously undermines the defendant’s right to presumption of innocence in violation of international fair trial standards”.
Call for a retrial and removal of the death penalty
In this context, it urgently appealed for a retrial and removal of the death penalty for Abdulrahman Er: “The organization notes that executions are rare in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KR-I) and in line with this, we urge the KRG to refrain from moving forward with any plans for the execution of Abdulrahman Aar. Instead, the KRG authorities must ensure that any torture allegations are impartially and independently investigated in line with the Convention against Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment which Iraq ratified in 2011. Amnesty International stresses with urgency that any ‘confessions’ extracted under torture are inadmissible as evidence in any court applying international fair trial standards”.
Amnesty International called on the KRG authorities “for a retrial in line with international fair trial standards, and with no recourse to the death penalty”. It stated that it was awaiting a response “on this urgent matter” from Dr. Zebari, the KRG’s International Advocacy Coordinator.