On January 23, 2011 the Los Angeles Times ran a story about a prison at Camp Honor in Baghdad. The paper claimed that the Baghdad Brigade and the Counter-Terrorism Bureau ran the facility, both of which are under the direct control of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It went on to say that prisoners were being held there incommunicado with no access to lawyers or their families. Both the premier and the Baghdad Brigade have been accused of holding and abusing political prisoners before.
In April 2010 the Los Angeles Times broke another story about a secret prison in Baghdad at the Muthanna Airport. 431 Sunni prisoners from Mosul were held there, and many of them were tortured. The interrogators came from the Baghdad Brigade, and the jail was under the control of the prime minister’s office. The Deputy Interior Minister denied the report, but he was from Maliki’s Dawa Party. Human Rights Watch interviewed some of the detainees, who related stories of rape, abuse, and torture at the prison. In October 2010 Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry sent a letter to the premier demanding that he shut down the secret prison for abuses, and stated that promises to fix the facility had not been followed.
The day after the Times broke the story about Camp Honor, the Deputy Justice Minister responded. He claimed the prison was under the control of Justice, and that the Red Cross and the Human Rights Ministry had visited the facility and found no abuses. He also said that families and lawyers could visit the prison. The Red Cross denied the deputy’s version of events, saying that they had requested to visit Camp Honor, but that their demands were not met, and therefore they had never gone there.
Iraq has a long history of torture and abuse. This dates back to the Saddam era, and the nature of the justice system, which relies upon confessions for prosecutions. The easiest way to obtain one is usually to beat one out of suspects. That has led to report after report about abuses by Iraqi security forces, as early as 2003 by the Americans, British, human rights groups, and even from within the Iraqi government itself. Despite U.S. efforts to change the police and courts to use evidence in their persecutions, the Iraqi system is unlikely to change any time soon. That will lead to continued reports like the two recent ones by the Los Angeles Times about prisons where detainees are cut off from the outside world, and beaten and abused.
Abboud, Assad, “Iraq minister denies prisoner abuse,” Agence France Presse, 1/24/11
Abdul-Ahad, Gaith, “Six years after Saddam Hussein, Nouri al-Maliki tightens his grip on Iraq,” Guardian, 4/30/09
Cordesman, Anthony, “Observations From a Visit to Iraq,” 6/12/09
Parker, Ned, “Alleged abuse at Iraqi detention center prompts oversight concerns,” Los Angeles Times, 1/23/11