International Law

Iraq’s Secret Prisoners, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law

In 2011, the Iraqi government announced that it had closed the misnamed Camp Honor, a prison located in Baghdad's "Green Zone" where prisoners were tortured. According to Human Rights Watch, the prison remains open today and is still being used for secret detentions and torture.

The Green Zone is run by Iraqi Army's 56th Brigade. Apparently, the military has been periodically rounding up Baath Party members, detaining them without criminal charges or access to legal counsel. Torture is alleged to be applied to obtain confessions.

It is highly unlikely that such gross human rights violations are taking place without the knowledge or consent of Iraqi Prime Minister al-Maliki. In other words, the military is acting at the behest of the government when engaging in such misconduct.

The U.S. government and the international community should apply diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iraqi government to ensure that the following actions occur.

1. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society, Doctors Without Borders, and other humanitarian NGOs must have immediate access to the detainees to ensure they receive proper medical treatment.

2. Detainees who have not been charged with a crime must be released.

3. Those prisoners who have been charged with a crime should be transferred to a proper correctional facility and afforded due process of law with access to legal counsel.

4. Politicians and military personnel responsible for the secret detentions and torture should be brought to justice.

These steps are necessary to ensure that the rule of law is wielded to protect human rights rather than violate them.

Recommended Reading

Iraq: Mass Arrests, Incommunicado Detentions, Human Rights Watch (May 15, 2012)

Human Rights Watch: 'Closed' Iraq torture jail still open, Jerusalem Post (May 15, 2012)

Rights group claims secret Baghdad prison remains open despite government promises to close it, Washington Post (May 15, 2012)

Iraqi detainee policies under scrutiny, (May 15, 2012)

HRW Says Secret Prison Still Operating In Baghdad, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (May 15, 2012)