Press Release: Iraq High-level Meeting to present assessment findings and foster national ownership to address threats posed by terrorists and foreign terrorist fighters prisoners

Baghdad, Iraq – 8 June 2022

The Government of Iraq and the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC) held a meeting to discuss prison reform in Iraq. UNODC, as an implementer of a capacity building initiative funded by the U.S. Government, presented to key stakeholders from the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the High Judicial Council, and the National Security Advisory, on the 6th of June 2022, a review of its recent assessment of Iraqi correctional facilities. UNODC presented the findings as part of the “Returning Foreign Terrorist Fighters in Detention” programme, which enhances the capacity of countries to develop tools to address radicalization and terrorist recruitment in prisons.

The presentation focused on understanding imprisonment issues from a system’s perspective, and by looking at organizational functions, inmate well-being, infrastructure, and security. The report’s findings are based on comprehensive coverage of three major adult male reformatories and one female reformatory facility under the jurisdiction of the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.

During the session, H.E Minister of Justice, Mr. Salar Abdulsatar stated the study was an important assessment that had been prepared with the support of UNODC experts and affirmed that the Ministry was already implementing many of the recommended reforms – and looked forward to working more deeply with UNODC and other international development partners to continue to make progress in these areas, in cooperation with key agencies.

In support of the Minister’s comments, Mr. Ali Elbereir, Senior Programme Coordinator and Head of UNODC Office in Iraq stated that this study came as part of the objectives of the Prison Reform Programme to enhance the capacities of the Government Ministries and departments to detect, analyze and manage threats posed by foreign terrorist fighters (FTFs) and prevent violent extremism in prisons. This is through providing technical assistance to the sector of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice including law enforcement, corrections, and justice sector departments.

U.S. Embassy Deputy Chief of Mission, Mr. Gregory LoGerfo noted that the U.S. Government wholly recognized that defeating Da’esh and preventing its resurgence in Iraq does not end with conviction in the courts but rely upon prison facilities capable of implementing best practices in sentencing management and the rehabilitation of extremist prisoners. He commended the Ministry and Government of Iraq for reforms undertaken to date and for their commitment to strengthening security protocols and implementing enhanced protections for human rights within Iraqi prisons. He emphasized that this commitment is emblematic of the type of leadership the United States hopes to see from all members of The Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, particularly as they undertake to manage Da’esh affiliated prisoners in a post-conviction setting.

The meeting concluded with a detailed discussion, in which feedback was obtained from the participants to be considered in the endorsed report. Through this partnership, UNODC aims to strengthen Iraq’s institutional capacity to manage and mitigate the threats of terrorists and FTF prisoners. International corrections best practices will be utilized, including classification and case management, contraband control, access control between cells and prison buildings, and development of intake processes.