News story, 19.07.2009

Conditions for the return of Mullah Krekar to Iraq remain unchanged

Observations by the Norwegian Government in respect of the programme “The Wanted” on NBC

The Norwegian authorities consider the Iraqi national known as Mullah Krekar to be a threat to national security, and have decided to expel him to Iraq. However, due to the conditions in Iraq, Norway’s human rights obligations prevent the Norwegian authorities from returning him for the time being.

According to statements made to the media, the TV network NBC will in the programme “The Wanted” allege that the Iraqi authorities have issued an official guarantee that Mullah Krekar will not be subjected to torture or any other form of abuse if he is returned to Iraq’s Kurdish region, and that the Kurdish regional authorities do not implement death sentences passed by civilian courts. As far as the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs understands, NBC showed a document said to contain the alleged guarantee to a representative of the Norwegian authorities during an interview for the programme “The Wanted”. When a representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested a copy of the document from NBC, the news network declined.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has through the Norwegian media received a copy of what it understands to be the document referred to in the NBC programme. The document in question has not been issued by the central authorities in Iraq, but appears to have been signed by a representative of the regional authorities in northern Iraq. Consequently, the document does not provide any diplomatic guarantee against abuse or against the implementation of a death sentence against Mullah Krekar. It does not change the conditions for the return of Mullah Krekar to Iraq. Before he can be returned to Iraq, the following conditions must be met:

  • The Norwegian authorities have an obligation to make an independent assessment of whether the conditions for the return of Mullah Krekar to Iraq are fulfilled. This assessment is being made on an ongoing basis.
  • In addition, the Iraqi authorities must have provided Norway with sufficient guarantees that he will be treated in accordance with international human rights standards, and these guarantees must be binding under international law.
  • The Norwegian authorities must also have observed Iraqi practice over time and have made an independent assessment of the situation before they can make a decision based on binding guarantees provided by the Iraqi authorities.

Norway has assumed obligations under international law to uphold fundamental human rights in cases concerning the expulsion of foreign nationals, even when they are considered to pose a threat to national security. In several similar cases the European Court of Human Rights has ruled against relaxing the conditions for return. This means for example that the Norwegian authorities cannot return Mullah Krekar solely on the basis of guaranties that might be given by the Iraqi authorities. Such guarantees have on several occasions been overruled by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, by whose rulings Norway is obliged to abide.

We have assumed obligations under international law in this area because we consider it important to respect fundamental and universal human rights. It is also in Norway’s fundamental interest that international law is respected. Taking into account the current situation in Iraq, this prevents us from returning Mullah Krekar.

Here we are in line will all other countries that are bound by these fundamental legal obligations, including Western countries. In the current situation, no country that it would be natural for Norway to compare itself with is returning persons to Iraq who are accused of offences similar to those Mullah Krekar is alleged to have committed there.

The Norwegian and Iraqi authorities are engaged in a dialogue on return issues, including the implementation of an agreement concluded on 15 May this year on the return of Iraqis who have been denied asylum. Foreign Minister Støre discussed the case of Mullah Krekar with his Iraqi counterpart, Mr. Zebari, in Bagdad on 29 June this year. When conditions permit, Norway and Iraq will cooperate on implementing Mullah Krekar’s expulsion order in a proper manner.

You can read the document here.