Middle East
Iraq ministry enters 'secret jail'
Human rights group urges action after allegations of abuse at Baghdad prison.
Last Modified: 13 Sep 2010 10:36 GMT
Amnesty International has urged Maliki to take action after allegations of abuse at the prison [EPA]

The Iraqi ministry of human rights has said two of its inspection teams have entered a facility, described as a "secret prison" by a Los Angeles Times newspaper report.

Kamil Amin, a spokesman for the ministry, told Al Jazeera on Tuesday that serious legal violations had been committed at the jail in the capital, Baghdad.

"Our teams have received complains that the prisoners are not getting enough legal consultation and suffer from very slow procedures that take much longer than they should," Amin said. 

However, he refused to answer questions about whether there was any evidence of torture on the inmates at the facility at the former al-Muthanna air base in west Baghdad. 

The Los Angeles Times reported Iraqi officials as saying that more than 100 prisoners had been tortured with electric shocks, suffocated with plastic bags or beaten.

'Human rights abuses'

UK-based human rights group Amnesty International urged Nouri al-Maliki, the Iraqi prime minister, to investigate the allegations of abuses against the predominantly Sunni detainees.

"We found judges and representatives of the public prosecutor installed inside the prison, which means the prison is not a secret one"

Kamil Amin, spokesman for Iraq's human rights ministry

"The existence of secret jails indicates that military units in Iraq are allowed to commit human rights abuses unchecked," Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, Amnesty's Middle East and North Africa deputy director, said in a statement on Monday.

Maliki, who is looking to build a parliamentary majority following elections last month, has denied any knowledge of the prison, but Amnesty said that this did not absolve the government of responsibility. 

"Prime Minister Maliki's claim that he was unaware of abuses cannot exonerate the authorities from their responsibilities and their duty to ensure the safety of detainees," Sahraoui said.

"Maliki's government has repeatedly pledged to investigate incidents of torture and other serious human rights abuses by the Iraqi security forces, but no outcome of such investigations has ever been made public."

Prison 'not secret'
Amin rejected the description of the facility, by the Los Angeles Times and Amnesty, as a "secret prison". 

"We found judges and representatives of the public prosecutor installed inside the prison, which means the prison is not a secret one," he said.

Amin said his ministry had collected enough evidence to prove that the prisoners, who were detained during an operation in October targeting alleged Sunni fighters in Nineveh province, were transferred from Nineveh to Baghdad legally. 

But Atheel al-Nujaifi, the governor of Nineveh, contested Amin's claims.

"The prisoners were transferred without court or investigation judge orders," he said.

Al-Nujaifi accused the security forces of targeting civilians in his province.

The whereabouts of the detainees came to light in March after relatives of the missing men raised their concerns with Iraq's human rights ministry.

Al Jazeera
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