Elite Iraqi troops controlled by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office are holding prisoners at a secret jail and torturing inmates at another facility, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
The Shiite-dominated security forces have faced similar allegations in the past, but the report details a pattern of abuse as recently as December despite promises of reform.
The findings raise fresh concern about the government’s treatment of detainees just six months after the US military handed over full responsibility for the prison system to the Iraqis.
Citing interviews and classified government documents, the New York-based rights group said the secret jails were under the control of the Iraqi army’s 56th Brigade, also known as the Baghdad Brigade, and the Counterterrorism Service — both under the authority of the prime minister’s office.
“Revelations of secret jails in the heart of Baghdad completely undermine the Iraqi government’s promises to respect the rule of law,” the group’s deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said. “The government needs to close these places or move them under control of the justice system, improve conditions for detainees, and make sure that anyone responsible for torture is punished.”
The group also called on the Iraqis to open the facilities for inspections and visits. It said it had obtained 18 documents, including a Dec. 6 letter from the prosecutor’s office of the high court asking the prime minister’s office to instruct officials at one of the sites to stop preventing visits from prison inspectors and relatives.
Iraqi government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh could not immediately be reached for comment. However, senior Justice Ministry official Busho Ibrahim denied the report.
“These prisons are under the control of the Justice Ministry,” he said in a telephone interview. “It is impossible that there is torture in our prisons.”
Human Rights Watch quoted prisoners at a detention center called Camp Honor who described the use of torture during interrogations and cells “so crowded that we had to take turns standing and lying down.”
One detainee said on Dec. 27 that his hands were tied over his head and his feet put in water.
“Then they shocked me in my head and my neck and my chest. The interrogators beat me repeatedly and told me that they would go to my house and rape my sister if I did not sign a confession, so I did. I did not even know what I was confessing to,” he was quoted as saying.
Others said they were hung upside down for hours at a time and plastic bags were tied over their heads until they passed out.
Human Rights Watch said a group of detainees was transferred in late November from Camp Honor to a secret site within the military base called Camp Justice just days before an international inspection team was to examine conditions at the detainees’ previous location.
A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific might seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic, but residents on Palau said that life right now is far from idyllic. The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere. The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica. A dot in the ocean hundreds of kilometers from its nearest neighbors, Palau is surrounded by the vast Pacific Ocean, which has acted as a buffer against the
Dutch scientists have found the coronavirus in a city’s wastewater before COVID-19 cases were reported, demonstrating a novel early warning system for the disease. SARS-CoV-2 — the virus that causes COVID-19 — is often excreted in an infected person’s stool. Although it is unlikely that sewage will become an important route of transmission, the pathogen’s increasing circulation in communities would increase the amount of it flowing into sewer systems, Gertjan Medema and colleagues at the KWR Water Research Institute in Nieuwegein said on Monday. They detected genetic material from the coronavirus at a wastewater treatment plant in Amersfoort on March 5, before
‘LIKE A CASSANDRA’: Chinese residents of Prato went into self-imposed lockdown and warned their Italian neighbors about what was coming, but were ignored In the storm of infection and death sweeping Italy, one big community stands out to health officials as remarkably unscathed — the 50,000 ethnic Chinese who live in the town of Prato. Two months ago, the country’s Chinese residents were the target of what Amnesty International described as shameful discrimination, the butt of insults and violent attacks by people who feared that they would spread the coronavirus through Italy. However, in the Tuscan town of Prato, home to Italy’s single biggest Chinese community, the opposite has been true. Once scapegoats, they are now held up by authorities as a model for early,
TRUE TOLL? Some Chinese are skeptical about official data, particularly given the overwhelmed medical system and initial attempts to cover up the outbreak The long lines and stacks of urns greeting family members of the dead at funeral homes in Wuhan, China, are spurring questions about the true scale of casualties at the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, renewing pressure on a Chinese government struggling to control its containment narrative. The families of those who succumbed to the coronavirus in the city, where the disease first emerged, were allowed to pick up their cremated ashes at eight funeral homes last week. As they did, photographs circulated on Chinese social media of thousands of urns being ferried in. Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500