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How fair are Iraq’s rapid-fire trials of ISIS members?

The U.N. and human rights groups have raised concerns about Iraq’s swift trials of alleged ISIS members, the Washington Post reports. Earlier this month, Iraq declared that major combat against the terrorist group was over, ending three years of territorial control by ISIS. Tamer El-Ghobashy, Washington Post’s Baghdad bureau chief joins Alison Stewart from Haliburton, Canada, via Skype for more.

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  • ALISON STEWART:

    Earlier this month, the Iraqi government declared the end of combat operations in the fight against ISIS, ending three years of the militant group’s violent and deadly control over one third of the nation. And as the Washington Post reports this week, the Iraqi government is now undertaking an effort to quickly bring ISIS members to justice. But just how the process is moving forward and who’s being caught up in it is raising questions for an explanation. I’m joined via Skype from Ontario by Tamer El-Ghobashy, the Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post. I understand you’ve just returned from Iraq. So when you were there tell me who is being arrested? What are they being charged for? And what is the process like?

  • TAMER EL-GHOBASHY:

    What we’re seeing is that there are thousands of people – both local Iraqis and foreigners – who came to join ISIS in Iraq who are being arrested and are now coursing through the Iraqi criminal justice system. They’re all being charged under the Iraqi anti-terrorism law which was passed in 2005 and has a very, very broad definition. Whether they raised arms and fought for the group or whether they cooked for fighters in the group or treated them as doctors or otherwise is irrelevant. Under Iraqi law, the idea that you joined ISIS or a similar group like Al-Qaeda means that you are subject to either life in prison or the death penalty.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    How long do these trials last? Is there anything that could be done to change the way this process is going forward?

  • TAMER EL-GHOBASHY:

    The U.N. has suggested that Iraq doesn’t have the infrastructure in its legal system to handle these cases saying that most of ISIS’s crimes were crimes against humanity and war crimes and should be handled by an International Criminal Court for Justice. But so far there is no momentum. In fact, it seems that from the very top of the Iraqi leadership structure, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has authorized that these trials be expedited in order to to see justice served for the victims of ISIS.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Tamer how might these quick trials and these executions affect Iraq’s stability?

  • TAMER EL-GHOBASHY:

    From a domestic point of view the idea is that these quick executions could result in a quite large number of innocent people being condemned to death. And one of the popular kind of conventional wisdom in Iraq and elsewhere is that the reason ISIS flourished in Iraq is because Sunnis felt disenfranchised and ignored by the majority Shia central government. So there might be a risk of further alienating Sunnis who feel like they were victims of ISIS and then were victimized once again by the Iraqi criminal justice system, which again, does not appear equipped to or willing to allow people a fair trial to defend themselves against the charge of joining the group.

  • ALISON STEWART:

    Tamer El-Ghobashy from the Washington Post. Thanks so much.

  • TAMER EL-GHOBASHY:

    My pleasure.

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