Unlawful detentions in Iraq

Prisoners sit in a crowded cell in the Iraqi National Police Detention Center in Kazimiyah neighborhood of North Baghdad, Iraq, 11 August 2007.

Prisoners sit in a crowded cell in the Iraqi National Police Detention Center in Kazimiyah neighborhood of North Baghdad, Iraq, 11 August 2007.

© AP/PA Photo/Petr David Josek


Eight years after the US-led invasion in 2003, the human rights situation in Iraq remains dire. The country continues to see high levels of violence, such as attacks by armed groups, who have targeted civilians and carried out indiscriminate attacks.

Thousands of detainees, some of whom were recently transferred from US custody, are being held without charge or trial. Many of those detained have not seen a lawyer and have had no opportunity to challenge their detention. Many have had no contact with the outside world and a number have been held in secret prisons.

Several detainees are known to have died in detention, apparently as a result of torture or other ill-treatment by Iraqi interrogators or prison guards. Thousands of people also continue to be detained despite judicial orders for their release.

Torture

Torture and other ill-treatment are systematic in detention facilities in Iraq and are widely used to obtain “confessions”. Women and men have told Amnesty International that they have faced rape, beatings with cables and hosepipes, electric shocks, having their limbs broken and other abuse.

The impact of torture on the health of victims extends beyond the immediate feeling of pain and fear. Longer-term consequences include scarring, infections, damage to internal organs and a range of psychological issues.

“The most horrible method is asphyxiation by plastic bag. You don’t last more than 5 or 10 seconds and you start running out of breath. Then you are basically forced to say ‘I will confess and sign anything you want me to sign’”
Former Iraq detainee, May 2010

The Iraqi authorities have announced investigations into some high profile cases of alleged torture, but the outcomes of these investigations, if they took place, have not been disclosed and the perpetrators have not been brought to justice.

Overcrowding and poor prison conditions

Those held in prisons and detention centres in Iraq endure terrible conditions. Overcrowding is a serious problem in most Iraqi prisons, as detainees are held in cramped spaces with poor ventilation. Overcrowding and shortages of clean water and adequate sanitation facilities mean that diseases and infections spread easily. 

Read more:

Iraq: New order, same abuses: Unlawful detentions and torture in Iraq, report, September 2010
Broken bodies, tortured minds: Abuse and neglect of detainees in Iraq, report, February 2011

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