Press release: French nationals sentenced to death in Iraq

28 May 2019

28 May 2019 - ECPM deplores the death sentence imposed on six French nationals in Iraq within three days, and calls on the French authorities to do everything in their power to ensure that the death penalty is not carried out.


The French Kévin Gonot, Léonard Lopez and Salim Machou were sentenced to death on 26 May 2019, followed by Mustapha Merzoughi on 27 May 2019, then Brahim Nejara and Karam El Harchaoui on 28 May, by the Baghdad Court for belonging to the Islamic State (EI). They have 30 days to appeal under Iraqi law, which provides for the death penalty for anyone who has joined a "terrorist" organisation, whether or not they have fought.
In its communiqué, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs reaffirms the principle of the sovereignty of the Iraqi State and recalls that "adults detained in Iraq must be tried by the Iraqi judiciary, as soon as it declares itself competent".

However, ECPM has repeatedly pointed out that the Iraqi judicial system is seriously dysfunctional and does not comply with international human rights standards. In particular, the association sent letters to Emmanuel Macron, President of the French Republic, and Jean-Yves Le Drian, Minister for Europe and Foreign Affairs, on 31 January 2018, and made a public statement on this issue on 1 March 2018 at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva.

In view of its international commitments and the situation in Iraq, which does not guarantee fair trials, France has an obligation not to agree to allow these nationals to be sentenced and executed. ECPM therefore calls on the French authorities to do their utmost to ensure that the death penalty is not carried out and to request the systematic repatriation of all French nationals to be tried in France.

According to Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan, Director General of ECPM, "the rule of law in Iraq is more than deficient, no decent or worthy defence can be ensured; the French State should respect its elementary commitments and ensure a judgment on French soil of all its citizens imprisoned on Iraqi or Syrian soil".
ECPM also expresses its support for families and calls for the repatriation of children, as well as mothers who have so far had no charges brought against them.


In February 2019, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) handed over thirteen French nationals suspected of having fought in the ranks of the EI to the Iraqi authorities for trial in Iraq.
Iraq is one of the most executed states in the world (more than 177 executions in the last two years according to Amnesty International) and more than 100 laws provide for the death penalty for a large number of crimes, including offences against the law on terrorism. So far, three Frenchmen had been tried in Iraq for EI membership and sentenced to life imprisonment, or 20 years' imprisonment.
Of the thirteen French nationals transferred to Iraq in February, one was reportedly released. Six others, Fodil Tahar Aouidat, Yassine Sakkam, Vianney Ouraghi, Bilel Kabaoui, Mohammed Berriri and Mourad Delhomme are also due to be tried in Iraq in the coming days.



Raphaël Chenuil-Hazan,

Executive director of ECPM

+33 1 80 87 70 53