Human Rights Watch: Iraqi units under Maliki running secret detention site
Elite security forces that answer directly to Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki's office are running a secret detention center in Baghdad and have tortured prisoners "with impunity" at a different location in the Iraqi capital, an international human rights group says.
Human Rights Watch says the allegations against the 56th Brigade of the Iraqi Army and the country's Counter-Terrorism Service are based on interviews with former detainees and classified Iraqi government documents that it obtained.
The secret detention facility is located within a legitimate Justice Ministry detention center in Camp Justice, a former notorious intelligence compound during the rule of Saddam Hussein. More than 280 prisoners were transferred into the site in November from a detention center in the Green Zone that had come under public scrutiny following a Los Angles Times story last year on abuses and miserable conditions there, Human Rights Watch said.
The transfers took place just days before an international inspection team was to investigate conditions in Camp Honor, the Green Zone detention center, it said.
About 80 of the detainees in the Camp Justice site are in 56th Brigade's custody, while the remainder are being held by the counter-terrorism unit. The detainees have no access to lawyers or family members and prison inspectors are barred from the section of the facility controlled by the 56th Brigade, it said.
Human Rights Watch said that it had obtained 18 documents underpinning its allegations, including one from a prosecutor asking Maliki's office to authorize access to the detainees by lawyers and relatives. Another concerns a refusal by a 56th Brigade officer to allow Human Rights Ministry inspectors inside.
More than one dozen former detainees told Human Rights Watch in interviews that they were subjected to inhuman conditions and a wide range of abuses during interrogations at Camp Honor, including beatings and electric shocks.
Iraqi officials have previously denied such allegations and Maliki has previously promised to reign in abuses.
Human Rights Watch called on the Maliki government to close all of the facilities.