Maliki Detained Hundreds of Sunnis in Secret Baghdad Prison

Officials Say Torture Was Routine for Warrantless Detainees

In news that is raising serious questions about the human rights record of the US-backed Iraqi government, installed in the wake of the 2003 US invasion of the nation, officials are confirming that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has been operating a secret prison in Baghdad since at least October.

The prison operated directly under the prime minister’s own office, though Maliki denied any personal knowledge of its existence or the endemic torture detainees faced there.

For many of the Sunnis swept up in Nineveh Province, the lack of arrest warrants and in many cases evidence was no small inconvenience; the government had conspicuously sought to avoid the sort of summary detention seen under the Ba’athist regime it replaced.

So instead of releasing the detainees the prime minister’s office compounded one crime with another and had some 431 of them held in isolation in a completely undocumented prison, often for months, while officials sought to torture some sort of confession out of them.

Since the prison became common knowledge, Maliki has promised to see it closed, and has reportedly transferred 275 of them to regular jails, and released 75 outright. What happened to the other 81 is not clear, however, and Maliki’s tight control over what has become his own private militia masquerading as a government security force means the information will be difficult to come up with.

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Author: Jason Ditz

Jason Ditz is news editor of