Iraq’s court system has been blind to the element of coercion as they rush to put to death not only ISIS fighters but their hostages as well. On one April afternoon, two hours was all a judge needed to convict 14 women who had been rounded up from areas liberated from ISIS and sentence them to hanging. Their children, the youngest two years old, will be left orphaned.
Two of the women on trial, Amina Hassan and Nazli Ismail, both from Turkey, pleaded with the judge that they were forced to come to Syria by their husbands, later fleeing for the Iraqi border after an airstrike killed their husbands. They were ignored.
Quoted in the New York Times, Belkis Wille of Human Rights Watch, who was present at the 14 trials, says that in addition to women, “cooks, medical workers, everyone is given the death penalty…. the presumption is because you are foreign and you were in ISIS territory, there is no need to provide more evidence.”
Besides moral concerns, the executions have horrible political ramifications. Insofar as Iraqi law metes out the same punishment to terrorist fighters as it does to those who finance or otherwise assist them, there is little incentive for the government to actually investigate serious crimes such as systemic rape, slavery, and genocide. No higher punishment is available anyway. Countries where armed ideological groups still hold territory, for example Nigeria and Burkina Faso, have cause to worry that the frenetic pace of executions in Iraq will serve as a bad precedent, dooming efforts that might otherwise entice fighters to desert their posts.