Rights Group: Iraq Torture Prison Still Open

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Common Dreams

Rights Group: Iraq Torture Prison Still Open

Human Rights Watch reports notorious Camp Honor prison still in use a year after govt. said it was closed

by
Common Dreams staff

A sign on a door labeled “Interrogation Booths” in both English and Arabic at Camp Honor military base in Baghdad’s Green Zone, taken before the government announced the prison was closed. (photo: Human Rights Watch)

Iraq is continuing to carry out mass arrests, unlawful detentions and torture at a prison it said it had closed a year ago, according to a report from Human Rights Watch today.

The group's report, based on numerous interviews, states that the notorious Camp Honor located in Baghdad's Green Zone, where the group had previously documented widespread torture, is still holding hundreds of detainees for months, without releasing information on their identities, reason for detention or location.

“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.”

In March 2011, the Iraqi government announced that it had closed Camp Honor after evidence of torture at the facility was revealed.

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Human Rights Watch: Iraq: Mass Arrests, Incommunicado Detentions

Camp Honor Prison

Camp Honor is a military base of more than 15 buildings within Baghdad’s fortified International Zone, which Iraqis and others continue to refer to as the Green Zone. The Iraqi Army’s 56th Brigade, also known as the Baghdad Brigade, which falls under direct command of the Office of the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces, controls the Camp Honor complex and is responsible for the security of the Green Zone.

On March 29, 2011, Justice Minister al-Shimmari told Human Rights Watch that the government had closed the camp’s main detention facility, Camp Honor prison (often simply referred to as “Camp Honor”). Al-Shimmari said that authorities had moved all its detainees, whom he alleged were terrorists and Islamist militants, to three other facilities under the control of his ministry.

Contrary to this assurance, Human Rights Watch has received information from government and security officials indicating that some detainees from the “Baathist” and “Summit” roundups were held in Camp Honor prison and that it is still being used at least as a temporary holding site, or as a place to extract confessions before moving detainees into the official correctional system. This use of military prisons outside the control of the Justice Ministry is consistent with known procedures at other publicly acknowledged facilities outside of the ministry’s control, such as Muthanna Airport Prison and a facility in western Baghdad run by the army’s Muthanna Brigade, both of which have also housed hundreds of detainees from the recent arrests, according to government officials and former detainees.

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Since October 2011 Iraqi authorities have conducted several waves of detentions, one of which arresting officers and officials termed “precautionary.” Numerous witnesses told Human Rights Watch that security forces have typically surrounded neighborhoods in Baghdad and other provinces and gone door-to-door with long lists of names of people they wanted to detain. The government has held hundreds of detainees for months, refusing to disclose the number of those detained, their identities, any charges against them, and where they are being held.

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Multiple witnesses told Human Rights Watch that some detainees arrested since December 2011 have been held in the Camp Honor prison in Baghdad’s International Zone, known as the Green Zone. In March 2011 the government announced it had closed Camp Honor prison, after legislators visited the site in response to evidence Human Rights Watch provided of repeated torture at the facility.

The two most sweeping arrest dragnets occurred in October and November 2011, detaining people alleged to be Baath Party and Saddam Hussein loyalists, and in March 2012, ahead of the Arab summit in Baghdad at the end of that month.

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