Iraqi PM orders investigation into use of secret prisons

Kadhimi’s decision to be implemented starting May 15.
Friday 15/05/2020
Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi on May 9, 2020, shows him chairing the ministerial meeting of the new Iraqi cabinet in Baghdad. (AFP)
Tangible steps. Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhemi on May 9, 2020, shows him chairing the ministerial meeting of the new Iraqi cabinet in Baghdad. (AFP)

LONDON--Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi ordered May 15 the formation of a fact-finding committee to look into allegations of secret government prisons being used to hold protesters.

The prime minister “decided to form a higher committee headed by Lieutenant General Othman Al-Ghanmi, the Minister of Interior to investigate the facts about the existence of secret government prisons in which demonstrators are being held,” an office order signed by Kadhimi stated. 

Kadhimi also authorised “the committee to send inspection teams, allowed to enter any security institution or building suspected of having a secret prison inside it.”

According to the office order, it is to be implemented from the date of its release, May 15.

 Kadhimi’s move is tangible progress in his quest to fight corruption, contain Iranian influence in state institutions and tame militias. 

Listening to the street. Iraqi protesters gather on the al-Jumhuriyah bridge in the capital Baghdad on May 14, 2020 after authorities eased up the lockdown measures. (AFP)
Listening to the street. Iraqi protesters gather on the al-Jumhuriyah bridge in the capital Baghdad on May 14, 2020 after authorities eased up the lockdown measures. (AFP)

In recent months, activists have accused suspected elements from Iran-backed factions of kidnapping protesters and activists, holding them in secret prisons and torturing them. 

There have also been accusations that armed factions that make up a “deep state” structure are secretly running security and other governmental institutions, through which they exert total military influence.

On May 10, the Supreme Judiciary Council said in a statement that it had ordered the release of protesters detained since those demonstrations erupted, in line with the new prime minister’s call.

 The council released detainees based on Article 38 of the constitution, which guarantees the right to protest “provided that it is not accompanied by an act contrary to the law,” the statement said.

 In a press briefing May 9 following his first cabinet meeting as premier, Kadhimi said demonstrators should be protected and that all protesters not involved in violence should be released.

 Protests erupted in Baghdad and across the country’s south October 1, when Iraqis took to the streets to decry rampant government corruption, unemployment and poor services.

 At least 600 people died in the following three months at the hands of Iraqi security forces, who used live fire and tear gas to disperse the crowds.

 The demonstrations petered out with the rise of the coronavirus pandemic, though dozens of protesters are still camped out in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square determined not to let the movement die. 

(With news agencies.)