Iraq Launches Investigation After Allegations of Prisoner Torture

Article Summary
Following the rising deaths of prisoners, allegedly due to torture, the Iraqi government has launched an investigation into this systemic jail practice. Adel Kazem writes how the move has come too late for the families of several inmates.

The Parliamentary Security and Defense Commission announced the formation of a committee to follow up on the respect for human rights in prisons and examine the complaints of torture that have been filed.

Hassan Jihad Amin, member of the commission, said that “the parliament, in coordination with both the Parliamentary Security and Defense Commission and the Human Rights Commission, has decided to form a committee to investigate the reasons behind death cases in prisons.”

Amin told Azzaman on July 31 that “the focus will be on the torture that prisoners are enduring, and this issue will take up a big part of the investigation in order for it to be resolved,” confirming “the importance of respecting human rights and prisoners. We are in a democratic country that enjoys freedom of expression. Therefore, all citizens should be granted their rights.”

Iraqi coalition MP Khalid Abdullah al-Alwani said that “torture cases are increasing recently, the last of which was what happened with the detainee Sadam al-Batawi. Add to this the two detainees Mohammed Khdeir al-Balimi and Fadel Abdallah, who lost their lives during the holy month of Ramadan in prison, succumbing to torture. Their bodies are still with forensics.”

Alwani made a statement on July 30 calling on the government to investigate all cases of death that occurred in prisons, confirming “the need to find the people involved in this painful and sad phenomenon that is claiming the lives of innocent people.”

Alwani said that “those detained should be protected by the government even if they are guilty.”

“How will there be political reforms when detainees are suffering in prisons and detention centers due to torture and blackmail at the financial and moral levels?” he asked. “We visited the family of the late Batawi and we asked them how he died in prison, and it turned out that he dies succumbing to torture,” Alwani said.

The MP added: “We have repeatedly said that corruption is now rampant in prisons and detention centers. The judiciary releases a lot of detainees, but those in charge of prisons do not execute their release until they get a lot of money from the parents of the detainees.” Alwani called on the government to “follow up on this serious issue.”

The government’s Secretariat General formed a committee to follow up on the issue of human rights in detention centers and prisons as well as on the confessions made by the accused individuals.

In a statement received by Azzaman yesterday, the press office of the secretariat said that “the decision of forming a committee was made upon the directions of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and in compliance with the premiership order 79 issued in 2012.” The statement added that “the head of the committee is the deputy prosecutor of Rasafa [district in Baghdad] and the committee is composed of representatives of the premiership, the Secretariat General of the government, the Ministry of Justice and the Ministry of Human Rights.”

The statement further said that “the committee will submit its recommendations to the Secretariat General of the government in order for it to take the necessary measures.”

Found in: torture, prisons, iraq, corruption

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