Iraq sentences four IS members repatriated from Syria to death
Iraq's judiciary has sentenced four Islamic State (IS) members to death by hanging, in the first known punishment for hundreds of Iraqi fighters repatriated in recent months from neighbouring Syria.
In early April, Iraq's specialised terrorism courts began preparing cases against nearly 900 Iraqis accused of joining IS.
The defendants had been caught in Syria by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters, and transferred to Iraqi authorities.
On Sunday, the judiciary said it had tried four Iraqis "accused of belonging to Daesh (IS) and carrying out crimes against innocent civilians in order to destabilise Iraq and Syria."
They were sentenced to "death by hanging" in accordance with Iraq's 2005 counter-terror law, the statement said.
The sentence was the first one of its kind for accused fighters from Iraq who were caught in Syria.
Additional Iraqi suspects are in SDF custody and are awaiting repatriation, a security source told the AFP news agency earlier this month.
Top five 'executioner' nation
Iraq has already tried thousands of its own nationals arrested on home soil for joining IS - including women - and has sentenced hundreds to death.
The country remains in the top five "executioner" nations in the world, according to an Amnesty International report released last week.
The number of death sentences issued by Iraqi courts more than quadrupled from 65 in 2017 to at least 271 last year.
But fewer were actually carried out, according to Amnesty, with 52 executions in 2018 compared to 125 in 2017.
In addition to locals, Iraq has also tried hundreds of foreigners, condemning many to life in prison and others to death, although no foreign IS members have yet been executed.
Among those awaiting trial in Baghdad are 12 French citizens accused of being IS members, who were caught in Syria and transferred to Iraqi custody in February.
Money sought for trying suspects
Baghdad has offered to try all foreign fighters in SDF custody, estimated at around 1,000, in exchange for millions of dollars, Iraqi government sources have told AFP.
Human Rights Watch said in October that US forces had been handing over suspected members of the IS to authorities in Iraq, where they face torture and botched trials.
"Prosecuting [IS] suspects is crucial for their countless victims to obtain justice, but that won't be achieved by transferring detainees to abusive situations," HRW's Nadim Houry said.
"The US should not be transferring IS suspects from Syria to Iraq or elsewhere if they will be at risk of torture or an unfair trial."
International human rights and humanitarian law prohibits the transfer of detainees to countries where they are at serious risk of torture and mistreatment, the organisation said.
IS captured a third of Iraq in 2014 but was largely defeated both there and in neighbouring Syria where the SDF proclaimed last month the capture of the group's last territory, eliminating its rule over a self-proclaimed "caliphate".