A clandestine jail and alleged torture site under the control of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki continues to operate more than a year after the government ordered it shut down, Human Rights Watch claims in a report being released Tuesday.
Massive roundups of suspected loyalists of late leader Saddam Hussein and the Baath Party were conducted in October and November, when government security agents went door to door in Baghdad, the capital, with lists of those targeted for secret detention, the rights group reported. Another sweep of suspected government opponents occurred in March, ahead of an Arab summit, it said.
“Iraqi security forces are grabbing people outside of the law, without trial or known charges, and hiding them away in incommunicado sites,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “The Iraqi government should immediately reveal the names and locations of all detainees, promptly free those not charged with crimes, and bring those facing charges before an independent judicial authority.”
The group also called for the Iraqi government to appoint an independent commission to investigate "continuing allegations of torture" and disappearances.
The continued operation of the Camp Honor detention site was disclosed by Los Angeles Times staff writer Ned Parker in July, four months after Maliki's government said the facility had been closed at the urging of Iraqi lawmakers and human rights advocates.
In March 2011, Iraqi legislators toured the prison in the Baghdad government enclave known as the Green Zone after they learned that the International Committee of the Red Cross sent a letter to Maliki's government expressing concern over reports it had received about secret detention and torture at Camp Honor. The Justice Ministry ordered it closed after the lawmakers' visit.
Two Justice Ministry officials told Human Rights Watch that dozens of prisoners have been taken to the clandestine detention site as recently as last month and have yet to be transferred to official custody, as required by Iraqi law, according to the rights group.
Human Rights Watch based its report on information conveyed in interviews over the last six months with 35 former prisoners, family members, lawyers, legislators and Iraqi government officials, all of whom spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, Stork said.
A spokesman for the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, Raifet Ahmad, relayed a request from The Times for government confirmation or denial of the Human Rights Watch allegations but did not provide a reply from Baghdad authorities.
-- Carol J. Williams in Los Angeles
Photo: An Iraqi security force member patrols a checkpoint on a street leading to the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad on March 26, 2012. Credit: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images.