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Hundreds of Iraqis "tortured" in newly revealed secret prison
Hundreds of Iraqis "tortured" in newly revealed secret prison
May 30, 2024 8:56 AM

  A secret prison has reportedly been discovered in Iraq under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's military office, where many were routinely tortured, a report said.

  The prison emerged as Human rights officials learned of the facility in March from family members searching for missing relatives.

  "Hundreds of Sunni men disappeared for months into a secret Baghdad prison under the jurisdiction of Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's military office, where many were routinely tortured until the country's Human Rights Ministry gained access to the facility," Iraqi officials told Los Angeles Times.

  The men were detained by the Iraqi army in October in sweeps targeting Sunni groups in Ninawa province.

  The provincial governor alleged at the time that ordinary citizens had been detained as well, often without a warrant.

  Worried that courts would order the detainees' release, security forces obtained a court order and transferred them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation.

  Commanders initially resisted efforts to inspect the prison but relented and allowed visits by two teams of inspectors, including Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim.

  Inspectors told the report, they found that the 431 prisoners had been subjected to appalling conditions and quoted prisoners as saying that one of them, a former colonel in Saddam Hussein's army, had died in January as a result of torture.

  "More than 100 were tortured. There were a lot of marks on their bodies," said an Iraqi official familiar with the inspections. "They beat people, they used electricity. They suffocated them with plastic bags, and different methods."

  "Rape"

  An internal U.S. Embassy report quotes Salim as saying that prisoners had told her they were handcuffed for three to four hours at a time in stress positions or sodomized.

  Maliki vowed to shut down the prison and ordered the arrest of the officers working there after Salim presented him with a report this month. Since then, 75 detainees have been freed and an additional 275 transferred to regular jails, Iraqi officials said.

  Maliki said in an interview that he had been "unaware of the abuses." However, Maliki defended his use of special prisons and an elite military force that answers only to him; his supporters say he has had no choice because of Iraq's precarious security situation."

  Maliki's critics also question how Maliki could not have known what was going on at the facility, and say that regardless, he is responsible for what happened there.

  "Other secret prisons"

  "The prison is Maliki's because it's not under the Ministry of Defense, the Ministry of Justice or Ministry of Interior officially," said one Iraqi security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic.

  The controversy over the secret prison, located at the Old Muthanna airport in west Baghdad, has also pushed Maliki to begin relinquishing control of two other detention facilities at Camp Honor, a base in Baghdad's Green Zone. The base belongs to the Baghdad Brigade and the Counter-Terrorism Force, elite units that report to the prime minister and are responsible for holding high-level suspects.

  Families and lawyers say they find it nearly impossible to visit the Camp Honor facilities. The Justice Ministry is now assuming supervision of the Green Zone jails, although Maliki's offices will continue to command directly the military units.

  The 431 detainees brought down from Ninawa were initially held at Camp Honor. Interrogations began after they were transferred to the prison at the Old Muthanna airport.

  In December, the Human Rights Ministry asked the judiciary to investigate Baghdad Brigade interrogators over allegations of torture at Camp Honor, but hasn't received an answer, Iraqi officials said.

  Source: Agencies

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