"A French defendant who was sentenced to death told the judge that officers had forced him under duress to confess and to sign a statement in Arabic that he could not understand… The judge asked him to lift his shirt and seemingly because there were no obvious signs of torture, sentenced him to death without asking any questions regarding the allegation," the watchdog said in a statement published on its official website.
Another French national, who faced court on 27 May, told the judge about the alleged torture and showed marks on his body, but the judge did not ask for details on when he had been tortured or by whom, only ordering a medical examination. The defendant is now set to be brought back to court on Sunday, the watchdog added.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the two men are a part of a group of around 280 suspected Daesh* militants, which includes at least 11 French citizens who were transferred from Syria to Iraq by the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces a few months back. An Iraqi court already passed death sentences for seven French nationals from this group from 26-29 May.
Court sources told the rights group that the other suspected French Daesh fighters would be tried in the coming days.
"France and other countries should not be outsourcing management of their terrorism suspects to abusive justice systems. These countries should not be sitting idly by while their citizens are transferred to a country where their right to a fair trial and protection from torture are undermined," acting HRW Middle East director Lama Fakih said as quoted in the statement.
Human Rights Watch has repeatedly raised concerns about Iraq's justice system, which, they say, resorts to torture in order to obtain confessions, including waterboarding, which leaves no long-lasting marks.
Commenting on the death sentences to the seven French nationals, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian reiterated his country's opposition to capital punishment but added that, in his view, they had benefited from a fair trial.
*Daesh (ISIL/ISIS/IS/Islamic State) is a terrorist organisation banned in Russia