Officials from Iraq's Kurdish region have handed over hundreds of "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) prisoners to the Iraqi government as part of a bilateral agreement federal officials say will enhance Iraq's security and stability.
The transfer of prisoners, which began March 12th, was the result of agreements reached by committees from the federal government in Baghdad and the Kurdish region.
Iraqi officials told Diyaruna they welcomed this step, stressing the importance of continued co-operation between the federal government and authorities in the Kurdish region to ensure Iraq's security and stability.
More than 1,460 ISIS elements were handed over to the federal government in March, said Dindar Zibari, an official from the Kurdish region.
"These individuals were detained by the Kurdish security forces as investigations were under way to determine their involvement with ISIS and in terror crimes," he told Diyaruna.
They were handed over to the federal government based on decisions issued by courts in the Kurdish region, he said, noting that judicial authorities in Baghdad and Ninawa province will continue the investigations and issue verdicts.
Around 1,000 other detainees were released after investigations proved they were innocent, he said, "but several hundred others were convicted by Kurdish [region] courts" and remain in custody.
Others are still being questioned, he said, with judicial authorities in the Kurdish region issuing verdicts pursuant with the Iraqi penal code.
Authorities must work together
Zibari stressed the continuing need for authorities in the Kurdish region to work closely with the Iraqi government.
"Since the liberation of Ninawa province, this has been our main request, as collaboration and intelligence exchange is of paramount importance when it comes to preserving public security and stability," he said.
"The Peshmerga soldiers and Iraqi army were in the same boat as they fought off terrorism," Zibari said, pointing out that the "fruits of this collaboration are clear to see in the form of victory achieved over ISIS".
"However, we cannot be complacent," he said. "Our bilateral efforts have to continue."
The transfer operation is the result of October 28th negotiations between committees representing the federal government and the Kurdish region, said researcher Hisham al-Hashimi, who specialises in extremist movements.
"We think this is an important development, and comes in light of the positive atmosphere between both sides and a shared desire to cement the pillars of stability in the country," he told Diyaruna.
Ensuring justice is served
Kurdish forces were successful in capturing a number of ISIS fighters on the battlefield, al-Hashimi said, while others turned themselves and their families in, especially during the liberation of al-Sharqat, al-Ayadhiya and al-Hawijah.
"There is no clear information regarding the number of ISIS elements and their families captured by the Peshmerga that are currently in custody, but I would say the figure stands at no less than 3,000," al-Hashimi said.
Iraqi MP Iskandar Watwat, who serves on the parliamentary security and defence committee, put the number at "no more than 5,000".
He urged authorities in the Kurdish region to hand over any ISIS elements remaining in their custody "in order to complete investigations and court hearings".
This will lead to sentences "so that justice can be served and these individuals pay for the crimes they committed against the Iraqi people", he told Diyaruna.