Amnesty International has urged Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to probe allegations that his Shiite-dominant security forces tortured hundreds of Sunni detainees at a secret prison in Baghdad.
Referring to a report in the Los Angeles Times, quoting Iraqi officials who said more than 100 prisoners were tortured by electric shocks, suffocated with plastic bags or beaten, the London-based rights group called for an inquiry.
“The existence of secret jails indicates that military units in Iraq are allowed to commit human rights abuses unchecked,” Amnesty’s Middle East and North Africa deputy director Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui said in a statement received late on Monday.
“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,” she added.
The prisoners were detained by Iraqi forces in Nineveh province, an insurgent stronghold in the north of the country, in October as part of an operation targeting alleged Sunni fighters, according to the newspaper.
Iraqi security forces reportedly obtained a warrant to transfer them to Baghdad, where they were held in isolation in a secret detention facility at the former Al-Muthanna airport in west Baghdad, it said.
Their whereabouts came to light in March after relatives of the missing men raised their concerns with Iraq’s human rights ministry.
“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,” said Sahraoui.
“This has encouraged a widespread culture of impunity but this time, Iraq must investigate the torture allegations thoroughly and bring to justice those responsible for carrying out any abuses,” she added.