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UN asks Iraq to close secret torture centers

A UN human rights watchdog called on Iraq on Friday to close secret detention centers where militant suspects, including minors, are “severely tortured.”
The panel of 18 independent experts, who reviewed Iraq’s record in preventing torture and ill-treatment last month, had challenged Iraqi officials to name a single person the country had jailed for torture in a justice system that had “gone astray.”
In its findings issued on Friday, the watchdog voiced concern at information pointing to a pattern whereby militant and other high-security suspects, including minors, were arrested without warrants and detained in facilities — especially those run by the defense and interior ministries.
It said they were “detained incommunicado and held in secret detention centers for extended periods of time, during which they are severely tortured in order to extract confessions.”
The UN Committee against Torture called on the government of Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi to “ensure that no one is detained in any secret detention centers, as these facilities are per se a breach of the Convention (against Torture) and should be closed.”
The facility at the old Al -Muthenna military airport in West Baghdad, “which was uncovered in 2011, is still open and continues to secretly operate under the control of the 54th and 56th brigades of the army,” the committee said, citing allegations it had received.
Fighters on all sides are reported to rape female captives and commit sexual violence, the committee said, calling for prosecutions.
Long pre-trial detention periods also allow for torture, he said, citing reports by the UN Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) that has said detainees can be held up to 10 years before going before a court.
Iraqi officials were not immediately available to comment but at last month’s session Iraqi delegates rejected any form of torture, regardless of who was the perpetrator, and gave assurances that torture was not systematic in the country.