The insurgency that took off shortly after the 2003 U.S. invasion led government forces to conduct arbitrary arrests, hold prisoners without charges and trials, and abuse and torture suspects. Some have been held incommunicado, and some have been placed in secret prisons. In April 2010 for example, a secret detention facility was discovered in Muthanna Airport in Baghdad, with many prisoners having been tortured. In January and February 2011, the Los Angeles Times, and Human Rights Watch revealed abuses at Camp Honor and Camp Justice in Baghdad. Cases like these have gone on with impunity despite official announcements that investigations were being created to look into them. No results have ever been made public, and no one has ever been punished.
Iraqi officials are increasingly reporting these cases themselves. Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry’s 2009 annual report said it had received 509 allegations of torture by security forces. Amnesty believes the actual number is much higher. In May 2009, a delegation from parliament’s human rights committee visited Kadhimiya women’s prison in Baghdad, and heard two women say that they had been raped after their arrest. In June, prisoners at the Rusafa prison went on a hunger strike against mistreatment. A lawmaker claimed that 21 prisoners at that facility and in Diwaniya prison, had been raped. That same month, the human rights committee in Qadisiyah accused security forces of torturing prisoners. A video was also found from an Iraqi prison and posted on the internet that showed prisoners being whipped and shocked with electricity. Just when the Amnesty report was released, six security officials told Reuters that torture and abuse were on-going in Iraq. They said Islamist terrorist suspects got it the worse, especially those that bragged about their exploits. Reuters also reported that the Supreme Judiciary Council got more than 400 complaints last year from detainees or their families about mistreatment. Only 90 of hose cases were ever probed however. Again, despite these official reports and announcements, nothing has been done about the prisons, or the abuse.
Amnesty has received evidence of rape, threat of rape, beatings, electric shock, suspension by limbs, the use of drills, asphyxiation, taking off nails, and breaking limbs being applied to men, women, and children. The report included the story of Ramze Shihad Ahmed, a 68 year old man with dual Iraqi and English citizenship. He returned to Iraq to free his son. Upon his arrival, he was arrested, held incommunicado, tortured, and raped with a stick. He and his son were then beaten, suffocated, given electric shock to the genitals, and suspended by their ankles. Interrogators threatened to rape Ahmed’s wife in front of him, and told his son that he would be forced to rape his father if they didn’t admit to a series of killings. Both men ended up signing confessions.
The main cause of the abuse in Iraq is the criminal justice system, which relies upon confessions. Torture and abuse have been common ways to extract a confession both before and after 2003. Those are accepted in court even if there is clear evidence of abuse.
|Baghdad Jail, 2009 (New York Times)|
After Amnesty released “Broken Bodies, Tortured Minds,” Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s office denied its findings. It said such papers only hurt Iraq’s image, and said that that there were no secret prisons and stories of torture were untrue. That has been the general response by all three post-2003 Iraqi governments. When human rights groups accuse the authorities of mistreatment, they say nothing happened. When Iraqi officials complain about abuses, Baghdad says it will investigate, but then there’s no follow up. Both reflect the official neglect of this issue, and the tacit support of the use of these extreme tactics. As long as that is Baghdad’s stance, the mistreatment and overcrowding in the country’s jails and prisons will continue.
Amnesty International, “Broken Bodies, Tortured Minds, Abuse And Neglect Of Detainees In Iraq,” February 2011
Brosek, Raman, “Amnesty International report compromises Iraq’s credibility says PM advisor,” AK News, 2/10/11
Juhl, Bushra, “Lawyers lead anti-government protest in Baghdad,” Associated Press, 2/10/11
Al-Salhy, Suadad, “Torture common for Iraq prisoners: security sources,” Reuters, 2/8/11