ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – An Iraqi intelligence agency reporting to Iraq’s Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, is holding individuals for prolonged periods of time in Mosul despite not having a clear mandate to do so, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Sunday.
Iraq’s National Security Service (NSS) is holding more than 400 detainees in a detention facility in eastern Mosul. As of July 4, 2018, 427 men were there, some of whom had been held for more than seven months.
One person held there briefly in April described horrendous conditions and said detainees had no access to lawyers, family visits, or medical care. He also described one prisoner dying in April after being tortured for months.
HRW was granted access to the facility on July 4. Conditions appeared to have improved, but detention centers remained overcrowded.
“National Security Service officials in Baghdad told us that the intelligence agency has no authority to hold prisoners, but changed their line once we were able to see the prisoners for ourselves,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch.
“Baghdad needs to publicly clarify which authorities have the right to hold and interrogate detainees.”
On April 17, a senior NSS official in Baghdad denied operating any detention facilities and claimed that the agency only holds small numbers of people for up to 48 hours before transferring them to places of formal detention. But researchers were granted access to the facility where officials said 427 prisoners were being held at the time.
The head of the NSS in Mosul later said all the prisoners were wanted for affiliation to the Islamic State (IS) and were interrogated before they were either brought before an investigative judge or handed over to another security entity.
He claimed they only arrested people after obtaining a warrant, and that all detainees had access to a judge and a lawyer within 24 hours of their arrest. Human Rights Watch did not interview any of the detainees at the facility.
However, on July 11, the NSS’s Baghdad office in response to HRW said most lawyers in the governorate of Nineveh abstain from arguing terrorism cases.
“Authorities should be doing whatever it takes to make sure that families know where their loved ones are,” Fakih said. “The government should crack down on forces with no legal mandate that are holding detainees for months on end without seeing a judge.”
Editing by Nadia Riva