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Iraq to close controversial jail

Allegations of abuse had swirled around Camp Honor, run in the Green Zone by security branches of Nouri Maliki's military office. The facility barred detainees' families and lawyers from visiting.

March 15, 2011|By Raheem Salman and Salar Jaff, Los Angeles Times

Reporting from Baghdad — The Iraqi government announced Monday that it would shut down a controversial jail that has been dogged by allegations of abuse.

The jail in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone, called Camp Honor, fell under the nominal supervision of the Justice Ministry. But it was actually controlled by two elite security branches affiliated with Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's military office, the Baghdad Brigade and Counter-Terrorism Bureau.

The detention center had its own investigators and barred families and lawyers from visiting.

After a scandal last spring over a secret prison at another military base, Maliki ordered that Camp Honor should be opened to detainees' families and lawyers. Instead, the jail remained closed to visitors and allegations of abuse emerged in late January in reports by the Times and Human Rights Watch.

Lawmakers then insisted on visiting the Camp Honor jail; members of the parliament's human rights committee went to the facility on Wednesday.

"Camp Honor was closed down because it is a place which is not suitable for inmates," said lawmaker Selim Abdullah Jabouri, who toured the jail. "We threatened to unveil whatever we saw and we would talk about it if it was not closed. Today, the Ministry of Justice responded."

At the time of their visit, he said there were 170 people in the jail.

Iraq's former human rights minister, Wijdan Salim, hailed the decision but cautioned that Camp Honor was just one of many jails rife with problems for detainees. "We asked before to let the prisoners in that very prison to meet their families and to get lawyers. And with this news about closing the prison, I think the Iraqi government is achieving a very positive step towards the rule of law," said Salim, who served in the last government.

"On the other hand, there are prisons in the other provinces which do not meet the criterion of international standards," she added.

Salman and Jaff are Times staff writers. Staff writer Ned Parker in New York contributed to this report.

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