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Iraq operating ‘secret prison’: Human Rights Watch

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BAGHDAD — Security forces linked to Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are operating a “secret detention site” and elite teams are torturing detainees at a separate facility, Human Rights Watch charged on Tuesday.

The New York-based watchdog’s claims come a week after the Los Angeles Times reported some detainees at a prison in the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Green Zone had been abused and held without charge for up to two years, charges Baghdad denies.

HRW said that in late November, Iraqi authorities moved nearly 300 detainees to a secret site within a military base known as Camp Justice in the Kadhimiyah neighborhood of north Baghdad, citing interviews it had conducted and classified government documents it obtained.

“The hurried transfers took place just days before an international inspection team was to examine conditions at the detainees’ previous location at Camp Honor in the Green Zone,” HRW said in a statement.

“The Iraqi government should immediately close the facilities or regularize their position and make them open for inspections and visits,” it added.

The rights group said it had obtained 18 documents on the subject, and cited a letter dated December 6, 2010, from the prosecutor’s office at a top Iraqi court asking Maliki to stop barring prison inspectors and relatives from visiting.

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It said it had also obtained a January 13, 2011 letter from the justice minister to Maliki, addressed to the premier in his role as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, stating that human rights ministry prison inspectors had been prevented from visiting the site.

HRW said that the facility was run by the Iraqi army’s 56th brigade, known locally as “the Baghdad brigade,” and the counter-terrorism service, both of which report directly to Maliki.

The rights group said the site was located within a legitimate detention facility located within Camp Justice.

Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim denied that there was any such secret site, telling AFP: “All the sections of the prison are available to us — there are no secrets. … There is no secret prison there.”

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HRW also said that former detainees had told it they were subjected to abuse at Camp Honor. The LA Times said last week that detainees at the camp, a facility in a defense ministry compound within the Green Zone, were abused and not provided regular access to lawyers or their families.

Ibrahim, the minister responsible for prisons, told AFP the same day that rights groups, including the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), had visited Camp Honor, but the ICRC said it never inspected the facility.

HRW said in its statement that detainees held there said “interrogators beat them, hung them upside down for hours at a time, administered electric shocks to various body parts, including the genitals, and asphyxiated them repeatedly with plastic bags put over their heads until they passed out.”

The group’s HRW deputy Middle East director Joe Stork said in the statement: “The government needs to close these places or move them under control of the justice system, improve conditions for detainees, and make sure that anyone responsible for torture is punished.”

Iraq has a fractured penal system in which the interior, defense and justice ministries all run their own detention centers. Convicts are held in justice ministry jails while detainees yet to face trial are held in any of the three.

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Trump has an ‘invulnerable reality distortion field’ — that makes Republicans defend the indefensible: GOP strategist

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Republicans are put in a difficult position by President Donald Trump's refusal to accept reality, a top GOP strategist explained on MSNBC on Monday.

Anchor Kasie Hunt played a clip of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attempting to defend Trump's public statements that he could accept foreign election interference in hopes of being re-elected in 2020 despite his lousy poll numbers.

GOP strategist Michael Steel offered his analysis of the situation facing Republicans.

"This is the hardest thing for every surrogate of President Trump and every Congressional Republican to deal with," Steel explained. "His position is wrong. His position is indefensible. His position, even when he cleaned it up, wasn’t really right."

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Ex-DOJ lawyer explains how Trump is engaged in a cover-up — and it has nothing to do with Russia

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On Monday's edition of MSNBC's "The Beat," former White House attorney and law professor Neal Katyal walked anchor Ari Melber through the egregious ways President Donald Trump has abused executive privilege — and is covering up more than just the Russia scandal.

"Executive privilege is this concept, Ari, that goes all the way back to the founding, the idea that presidents should have some zone of secrecy around them, to have confidential deliberations and decision making," said Katyal. "I've been in two different administrations and I would say particularly President Obama was really careful to make sure that he wouldn't invoke executive privilege unless absolutely necessary. He only invoked it once in eight years, even though many years he had Congress opposed to him in terms of being from the opposite party."

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Ex-Ambassador to Russia explains how Putin will exploit the divisions between Trump and his advisors

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The former U.S. ambassador to Russia explained how Vladimir Putin will exploit the divisions between President Donald Trump and his advisors.

"A double bombshell in reporting from The New York Times this weekend about the president and his relationship with Russian president Putin," anchor Kasie Hunt said.

"First, The Times reports that the U.S. is escalating online attacks on Russia’s power grid in an effort, 'partly as a warning and partly to be poised to conduct cyber strikes if a major conflict broke out between Washington and Moscow.' But that’s not all," she noted. "The second bombshell in that report that officials are worried about briefing the president."

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