Tens of thousands of detainees are being held without trial in Iraqi prisons and face violent and psychological abuse as well as other forms of mistreatment, Amnesty International said yesterday.
The London-based human rights watchdog estimates 30,000 people are held in Iraqi jails.
“Iraq’s security forces have been responsible for systematically violating detainees’ rights and they have been permitted to do so with impunity,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa director Malcolm Smart said. “The Iraqi authorities must take the firm and decisive action now ... to show that they have the political will to uphold the human rights of all Iraqis, in accordance with their international obligations and to stop the torture and other gross abuses of detainees’ rights.”
Amnesty’s 59-page report, entitled New Order, Same Abuses: Unlawful detentions and torture in Iraq, lists several men who were tortured or died in prison.
Among them was Riad Mohammed Saleh al-Oqaibi, arrested in September last year and held in a detention facility in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone before being transferred to a secret facility in the capital.
“During interrogation, he is said to have been beaten so hard on the chest that his ribs were broken and his liver damaged,” the report said. “He died on 12 or 13 February as a result of internal bleeding.”
Amnesty said methods of torture have included beatings with cables and hosepipes, breaking of limbs, piercing of the body with drills and psychological torture in the form of threats of rape.
It said security forces in the autonomous region run by the Kurds were also at fault, noting one case in which a detainee had been held for more than 10 years without charge or trial and was allegedly tortured by Kurdish security police.
Iraq’s fractured penal system means the ministries of justice, interior and defense all run their own prisons, and reports of torture and mistreatment are not uncommon.
Human Rights Watch said in April that Iraqi men were raped, electrocuted and beaten in a “secret prison” in Baghdad, while members of parliament called for an independent inquiry into prison abuse in June last year.
Baghdad took over full responsibility for prisons in the country on July 15, with the US only responsible for a small section of high-value detainees in Karkh Prison on the capital’s outskirts.
When Iraq took control of the last remaining US detention facility, Iraqi Justice Minister Dara Nureddine Dara said “the days of mistreatment and abuse of prisoners are gone.”
Amnesty said that while Iraq had announced inquiries into cases of maltreatment, torture and death in custody, the results had not been made public and “those responsible for abuses have not been brought to justice.”
It also criticized the US for handing over several thousand detainees “without any guarantees against torture or ill-treatment.”
Security forces in Iraq retain broad powers to arrest individuals on the basis of tip-offs and Amnesty said torture is often used to extract confessions from those being held.