Torture and grim conditions will continue in Iraqi prisons despite the election of a new government, human rights watchdog Amnesty International has declared.
Its report described state-run detention cells as breeding grounds for systematic torture and sickness.
Torture and abuse has long been a part of Iraq’s prisons system, going back to Saddam Hussein’s regime before he was overthrown in 2003 by the invasion. It has since continued, even in American-run prisons, most notably at the Abu Ghraib detention centre outside Baghdad.
But US forces turned over full control of prisoners to Iraq’s government last year, “without any guarantees that they will be protected,” the Amnesty report states.
“There is every likelihood that torture and ill-treatment will remain widespread,” it concluded.
An estimated 30,000 men and women are currently in Iraqi custody, including about 1,300 on death row.
In 2008 Iraq’s parliament voted to join most of the rest of the world in banning cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment of prisoners by signing onto the UN Convention Against Torture. But Iraq has still not filed its paperwork with the UN, and “there is no indication that the government intends to,” the report said.
Kurdish MP Mahmoud Othman said parliament intends to ratify the UN treaty, but has been too busy trying to stabilise Iraq to address it yet. “The convention enjoys the support of all political blocks and nobody rejected it in the previous parliament,” he said.
The report follows a similar charge last week by Human Rights Watch that accused elite Iraqi troops controlled by Mr al-Maliki’s office of holding prisoners at a secret jail and torturing inmates at another facility.
Mr Al-Maliki has denied the allegations, but they raised fresh concern about the government’s treatment of detainees just six months after the US military handed over full responsibility for the prison system to the Iraqis as part of its preparations to withdraw from the country by the end of this year.