BAGHDAD: Iraq’s justice minister has promised to support Red Cross efforts to visit a detention site where abuse of detainees is alleged to have taken place, a statement said on Thursday.
Hassan Al Shammari’s remarks came in a meeting with the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) Iraq chief Magne Barth, and after the Los Angeles Times and Human Rights Watch separately published allegations of torture at the prison site, known as “Camp Honour,” in Baghdad’s Green Zone.
“Justice Minister Hassan Al Shammari ... confirmed that the ministry will provide all possible facilities to visit the camp, and was ready to overcome any difficulties in front of the committee’s work in Iraq,” a statement released by the government’s National Media Centre said.
Layal Horanieh, spokeswoman for the ICRC in Iraq, said Barth met with Shammari on Wednesday and Busho Ibrahim, the deputy justice minister responsible for prisons, on Tuesday.
“We were delighted to meet with the minister in charge (Shammari), because it was the first opportunity we had to meet with him since he was appointed,” Horanieh told reporters, referring to Shammari’s appointment following the formation of a new government last month.
“We did talk about access to places of detention, including the place in question in the Green Zone,” she added.
“It is a strong dialogue, a good dialogue and it’s a beginning we hope to help us gain access to the places we want to gain access to.”
On Tuesday, New York-based watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it had interviewed former detainees at Camp Honour who said they had been abused at the facility.
HRW reported that detainees said “interrogators beat them, hung them upside down for hours at a time, administered electric shocks to various body parts, including the genitals, and asphyxiated them repeatedly with plastic bags put over their heads until they passed out.”
The rights group’s report came after the LA Times said last month that detainees at the camp were abused and not provided regular access to lawyers or their families.
Ibrahim told reporters on Jan.25 that rights groups, including the ICRC, had visited Camp Honour, but the Red Cross said it has never inspected the facility. Camp Honour is located in a defence ministry complex, but is operated by the justice ministry.