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Iraq carrying out mass arrests, torture in Camp Honor: HRW

Despite claims to the contrary, Maliki's government in Iraq continues to author mass human rights abuses, according to Human Rights Watch

Ahram Online , Tuesday 15 May 2012
Exterior of the main prison facility at Camp Honor military base in Baghdad's Green Zone, taken before the government announced the prison was closed. Door at right is labeled “detainee entrance," (Photo: Human Rights Watch).
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Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report Monday claiming that a detention facility previously declared to have been shut down by Iraqi authorities is still running in secret. The report is titled "Iraq: Mass Arrests, Incommunicado Detentions - Notorious Prison in Use a Year After Government Said It Was Shut Down."

The government closed Camp Honor prison after an HRW investigation exposed rampant violations in the prison.

The HRW report cited testimonies and acknowledgments by former prisoners, lawyers, parliamentarians, family members, government and security officials. Based on the interviews, HRW concluded that the Iraqi government carries out mass arrests, illegally detaining hundreds of citizens, dozens of them transferred to Camp Honor.

Two particular waves of mass arrests were mentioned in HRW's account. The first occurred in October and November 2011 when officials and officers were targeted. Those were allegedly Baath Party and Saddam Hussein loyalists and were ordered detained directly through Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki's military office.

The "Baathist arrests" were supposedly to round up plotters against Iraq's regime. Testimonies said those released were forced to sign pledges against public criticism of the government as well as false confessions. Threats of torture (or further torture), family member raping and prolonging imprisonment preceded the signings.

The second wave of arrests was prior to the March 2012 Arab summit in Baghdad. This wave was preemptive, an effort to secure the summit not hosted in Baghdad for decades because of insecurity, claimed now to be secure by Iraq's government.

HRW said witnesses were told by interrogators that the reasons behind their arrest was "to curb criminal activity during the summit and any 'embarrassing' public protests."

An interior ministry official quoted in the report said that "security forces, in the interest of keeping security incidents to a minimum during the summit, while the world was watching, sometimes decided it was easier to just round up people who had been imprisoned years before, regardless of what crime they may have committed."

HRW said that all detainees interviewed claimed no arrest warrant was presented to them to see despite claims by the government that the arrests were legal. The HRW report further describes Camp Honor, providing accounts of torture by prison guards.

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