Iraq admits holding ‘terrorism’ suspects for months: HRW

A guard leads three death row prisoners Ismail Saleh, left, Ahmed Nijm, center, and Quteiba Younis, right, to the Eagles’ Cell counterterrorism intelligence office in Baghdad. (File Photo: Maya Alleruzzo/AP)
Updated 22 July 2018
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Iraq admits holding ‘terrorism’ suspects for months: HRW

  • The National Security Service acknowledged it was holding male prisoners at a facility in east Mosul
  • Around 20,000 people were arrested during the three-year battle to evict Daesh, which seized swathes of western and northern Iraq in 2014

BAGHDAD: An Iraqi security agency has admitted holding hundreds of “terrorism” suspects for months, Human Rights Watch said Sunday while calling on authorities to inform the families of those held.
The National Security Service acknowledged it was holding male prisoners at a facility in east Mosul, the Iraqi city from which Daesh was ousted last year.
After previously denying the existence of any detention facilities, the NSS allowed HRW on July 4 to visit the center where the group found clean but “extremely overcrowded” cells.
“Researchers were granted access to the facility, where officials said 427 prisoners were being held at the time,” HRW said in a press release.
Before visiting the facility HRW interviewed archaeologist Faisal Jeber, who said he was detained in early April and estimated at least 450 prisoners were being held, based on a daily head count.
While the 47-year-old was released within 48 hours, he “described horrendous conditions and said that detainees had no access to lawyers, family visits, or medical care.”
Those sharing a cell with Jeber said they had been held for four months to two years, according to the May 16 interview.
An NSS officer speaking on the condition of anonymity told researchers some people had been held for “over one year,” before the end of the battle to retake Mosul from Daesh militants.
On a daily basis, Iraq’s two anti-terror courts in Baghdad and Mosul judge dozens of people suspected of being Daesh members.
Around 20,000 people were arrested during the three-year battle to evict Daesh, which seized swathes of western and northern Iraq in 2014.
Children were among those held at the Mosul facility, HRW said as it called on Iraqi authorities to release all minors who had not been charged with a crime.
“Authorities should be doing whatever it takes to make sure that families know where their loved ones are,” said Lama Fakih, the organization’s deputy Middle East director.
HRW requested the NSS clarify how many people were being held and to detail the number and location of detention facilities.
Families gather weekly in Mosul to demand news of their missing fathers, brothers and sons.
Interviewed by AFP, many of those searching for relatives feared their family members were wrongly detained on “terrorism” charges amid the chaos of the offensive against Daesh.
Jeber, the former detainee, told HRW that prisoners said a man “tortured to the point that he had been half paralyzed” had died at the facility where he was held.
The NSS, which reports to the prime minister, denied the use of torture and acknowledged “very limited cases of death, which were judicially documented.”


Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

Updated 20 September 2019

Thousands protest in Algiers despite tight security

  • Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies
  • Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies

ALGIERS: Thousands of protesters took to the streets of the Algerian capital on Friday in defiance of a heavy security presence to demand the ouster of the country's army chief.
Demonstrators gathered near the capital's main post office square, the epicentre of Algeria's protest movement that forced longtime president Abdelaziz Bouteflika to step down in April, this time calling for the ouster of General Ahmed Gaid Salah.
"The people want the fall of Gaid Salah," the strongman in post-Bouteflika Algeria, they chanted. "Take us all to prison, the people will not stop."
Friday's protest marked Algeria's 31st consecutive week of rallies, but protesters faced a heavy deployment of security forces in the city centre and along its main avenues.
Salah on Wednesday ordered police to block protesters from outside Algiers entering the capital to boost numbers at the anti-regime rallies.
The tougher line on protests came just days after interim president Abdelkader Bensalah announced a December 12 date for a presidential election to fill the vacuum left by Bouteflika's departure.
The army chief has led the push for polls by the end of 2019, despite mass protests demanding political reforms and the removal of the former president's loyalists -- including Gaid Salah himself -- before any vote.
In the runup to the latest rally, as on previous Fridays, police made several arrests near the square, AFP photographers said.
Police stopped vehicles on main streets in the capital and an AFP journalist saw officers in plainclothes ask for identity papers, before some were led off to nearby vans.
As a police helicopter scoured the skies, security forces also stopped cars headed towards the city centre from its southwest entrance, where a dozen anti-riot police vans were stationed.
Said Salhi, deputy head of the Algerian League for the Defence of Human Rights, condemned the heightened security measures as "illegal".
Demonstrations have officially been banned in Algiers since 2001 but the prohibition had been ignored since rallies started on February 22 against the ailing Bouteflika's bid for a fifth presidential term.