Often, the Iraqi authorities hold innocents suspected of “terrorism” in dire conditions around the country and totally lack the ability to process cases. Amnesty International made this complaint, according to which the conditions of prisons in Iraq where the suspects are kept “are shocking”. A delegation of the rights group, including its secretary general Salil Shetty, was able to visit one of these centers in Amriyat al-Fallujah, west of Baghdad. “We visited a detention center in which 700 people were confined, locked up for months,” Shetty told AFP.
After Saddam’s fall, the situation in Iraq came to a head. Today chaos is devouring political order in Iraq, engaged in an internal fight against Isis. Not long ago, thousands of Shiites spurred by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr broke into the Green Zone in Baghdad and occupied the parliament, demanding the resignation of the Prime Minister Haider Abadi and a serious political renewal process. Militias backed by Iran dominate Shiite-majority areas of the country, whereas the Iraqi Kurdistan in the north runs itself, and the Sunnis in the west suffer the Is and the military campaign against it. The US anti-Isis strategy rests on the collaboration of Prime Minister to Abadi who is gradually losing his grip on the country. As a reaction, the police state worsens.
An understandable attitude, given the intensity of the terrorist risk, which is causing other failures. A hunch or a denunciation may be enough for a person to be thrown into a dark prison cell. Rather than to address the individual case, the aim of such action is to send a message to other possible terrorists. “The conditions in which they are held- Salil Shetty explains – are devastating: some are kept in one square meter or so per person, sometimes they even find themselves upside down with no possibility to move,” he said. “The toilets, where there is room for them, are in the same room. Food is very poor.”
Donatella Rovera, senior adviser for responding to Amnesty crisis, said that the center – run by anti-Iraqi terrorist forces – has only four investigators available to process all the pending cases. It is overwhelmed by a workload it cannot handle. Because there are always new “cases.” A slap in the face of the right to Justice.
Amriyat al-Fallujah is in the western province of Anbar, where security forces fight against the militants of the Islamic State. Military operations have caused the displacement of huge numbers of civilians in this province. Thousands of Sunni men have been arrested on suspicion of terrorist activities and are held in solitary confinement. “Not one of them has been formally charged. They have been there for months now because the local authorities cannot investigate the cases,” Shetty said. “The local authorities themselves have admitted they do not even know how these people ended up there and that they believe that most of them are innocent.”
The members of the Amnesty team said that they had no knowledge of the existence of the detention center nor of the 700 men detained there. “It is symptomatic of a much bigger problem because we have met 700 of them, but there are many such places around the country,” Shetty said.
It is one of the many stories that “come back to us” from the peripheries of the world where war, atrocities, revenge, poverty, and disorganization leave an increasing number of victims on the ground. It comes to mind when, in full regalia, Iraqi authorities closed Abu Ghraib, the prison that has become notorious for the abuses committed there at the hand of Saddam Hussein’s regime and by US forces during the occupation of Iraq; it was used as a torture center under Saddam, and according to estimations, 4,000 detainees were killed there. The prison, which had been closed in 2006, reopened its doors on February 21, 2009; the prison was entirely renovated and modernized, and changed its name into ‘Baghdad Central Prison’. On April 16, 2014, the prison closed again, after a mass escape. However, the question is: how many other Abu Ghraibs are still out there?