Lost in Iraq

December 2, 2010

This post is part of our Write for Rights series

Walid Yunis Ahmad is quite possibly the longest serving detainee in Iraq. He is a member of the marginalized Turkoman minority and has been imprisoned in Irbil, Northern Iraq, without charge or trial for more than ten years.

Walid was detained by Kurdish security forces in February 2000 after he was given a lift in a car that allegedly contained explosives. Although the driver of the car was released within three months, Walid remains locked up more than a decade later.

For the first three years after his detention Walid’s family received no official notification of his arrest and believed he had simply disappeared.

During these early years of confinement, Walid was tortured, held in solitary confinement and transferred from prison to prison until he finally ended up in the cells of the Kurdish security police headquarters, where he remains to this day.

Walid told Amnesty International delegates who visited him last June:

“I haven’t seen my children for 10 years. I did not want to see them in this terrible predicament.”

In response to Amnesty International’s inquiries, Kurdish authorities could offer no indication of when they planned to bring Walid to trial.

Walid’s case is fairly typical of the entire Iraqi prison system, as detailed in the recent Amnesty International report New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful Detentions and Torture in Iraq.

In addition to widespread due process violations, our report details the extensive use of torture in Iraq’s prisons— including prolonged suspension, beating, asphyxiation, and rape or the threat of rape.

The Iraqi Human Rights Ministry received 574 reports of torture carried out by state officials in 2009 alone. The majority of abuse occurs in the early weeks and months of detention and is often used to obtain confessions, upon which Iraqi courts rely heavily as evidence of guilt.

Hundreds of detainees have ultimately been executed on the basis of confessions obtained by torture.

Amnesty International is calling on the Iraqi government to address the human rights crisis in its prisons and its criminal justice system. You can play your part by highlighting the plight of Walid Yunis Ahmad.

Your letters shine a light on incidences of injustice. We know from long experience that they have a real impact.

Amnesty International’s Counter Terror with Justice Campaign has been working on Walid’s case since September. Activists have been sending postcards (email [email protected] to order postcards) and emails to the Kurdistan Regional Government, urging them to either charge and fairly try Walid, or release him.

Please go to our website and take action.