Baghdad – Several prisoners in Iraq have been held in the country without trial for around 12 years, revealed an Iraqi source linked to the prisons file.
He painted to Asharq Al-Awsat a bleak picture of the situation of prisoners, especially those held in connection to terrorism, most notably in Baghdad’s al-Taji jail and al-Nasseriya jail in the southern The Qar province.
The source said that the inmates are subject to torture and suffer from malnutrition. Their cases have also been neglected despite years of imprisonment.
He singled out two cases, that of inmate Amer Hilal Obeid Harz, who has been held in al-Nasseriya without a sentence since 2005, and Raed Obeid Trad, who has been held since 2006 without his case being addressed.
Media director at the Justice Ministry Thaer al-Jabbouri spoke of several prisoners, held since 2005, whose cases have not been tackled. He refused however to hold his ministry responsible for this issue.
He told Asharq Al-Awsat: “We are not responsible for trying people because we are an executive power. The judiciary sentences and we carry out the imprisonment. We do not interfere in the verdict, acquittal or investigation.”
“We are like a hotel. We are responsible for checking the prisoner, providing food and compiling a database for him,” explained al-Jabbouri.
He stated that the Higher Judicial Council separated from the Justice Ministry in 2003 and therefore the ministry is not responsible for trials, cases and investigations.
The ministry issues monthly reports on inmates who have received a general pardon, he added.
The source indicated however to the torture cases in al-Taji and Nasseriya prisons, adding that several of the detainees are innocent.
At al-Taji jail, the prisoner is received at the outer gate with curses and beatings. He is then thrown in solitary confinement, which is reserved to inmates who commit violations inside the jail itself. Only the warden and a specialized investigation committee have the power to send a prisoner to solitary confinement, explained the source. The prison administration violates this rule due to personal reasons or to please the security force overseeing the facility.
The security force itself interferes from time to time to torture prisoners.
Some prisoners do not even receive medical aid. The source said that at least 500 out of 5,000 inmates in al-Taji jail need medical attention, “but they do not receive enough of it and some of them die as a consequence.”
He also spoke of the confined spaces in the jail whereby some 30 prisoners are placed in 32 square meter spaces that are designed to hold only 20 prisoners.
Jabbouri denied the torture claims, saying: “It is not in our interest as a government power to beat prisoners, because we would be condemning ourselves.”
He noted that human rights groups inspect the jails and “they cannot be conspiring with us.”
Furthermore, the Justice Ministry official stressed that lawmakers regularly visit prisons and the facilities are monitored by cameras in order to record violations against inmates.