Saturday, April 2, 2011

Secret Prison Camps in Baghdad

In this article, Human Rights Watch describes an Iraqi detention center that participated in the active torturing of its ~175 detainees. Up until March 14, 2011, Camp Honor, as it was ironically named, held its prisoners in “horrible conditions” and investigators witnessed evidence of multiple torture techniques. Among other human rights infractions, Camp Honor’s interrogators actively used electric shock intervention all over the prisoners’ bodies, lashed them, placed bags over their heads until they asphyxiated, and hung prisoners upside down for days at a time. Upon the discovery of such conditions, the prisoners were moved to other detention centers in and around Baghdad and Camp Honor was closed.

While these prisoners have been moved from Camp Honor to other detention camps (i.e. Camp Justice), little hope is had as to whether or not the torturous conditions will end. In fact, it would be hard to believe that any progress has been made at all. Human Rights Watch said that, “in response to repeated allegations of serious abuse at Iraqi detention facilities, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki issued a statement on March 19 reiterating that ‘there are no secret detention centers, and all prisons and detention centers are open to regulatory authorities and judicial authorities, which must report any violations found, if any, and notify judicial authorities to take legal action against the perpetrators.’” However a previous report filed by HRW outlined a newly discovered secret prison within one of the detention centers that those from Camp Honor were sent to—Camp Justice. What is more, though, is that this camp, as well as the secret camp within it, are “run by the same forces” that were in charge at Camp Honor—the 56th brigade and the Counterterrorism Service—“both of which report directly to the prime minister” mentioned above. What may not come as a surprise, though, is that the “Counterterrorism Service works closely with U.S. Special Forces.”

While this video is not particularly enlightening, it gives you an idea of where these camps are and what is being done (up until 2:44).

So, is torture within detention centers such as these a never-ending cycle? Will we only continue to uncover more and more of these treacherous places? In regards to our reading last week—of which I am still thinking about quite a bit—this article brings up perhaps some support for Dershowitz’s argument that torture is going to happen, and there is not much we can do about it. I for one still do not buy it. I feel as though this part of Dershowitz’s argument takes a lazy relativist approach: one that dismisses the possibility for change. It is in camps like these, which we have seen plenty of times before, where we need to ask ourselves the question, how? How do we make change? If torture is cultivated by the environmental surroundings of an individual, how do we make that environment change? How do we make these detention centers transparent? And, most importantly, how do we teach the governing officials of these camps what has already been proven: torture does not work? Do you all believe that torture is inevitable?


  1. Interesting post Rush! I agree with you in that I do not believe that torture is inevitable. It is something that can be changed and not be accepted as something that will always happen. When I read Dershowitz’s argument I thought of the lazy relativist approach as well. Dershowitz seems to give in to the fact that torture will always be so we need to work around it. However, seeing that there are more camps that will be uncovered there needs to be a stop to such actions, as you say, so that we will not be continuously uncovering camps indefinitely. The chain of power that enforces torture is corrupt itself, as we saw in the Ghost of Abu Ghraib, so changing torture or stopping it makes it all the more difficult. Who do we approach with the authority to genuinely stop such torture techniques for interrogation that are not effective? We may have to start with the torturers and find a way to make them realize one, what they are doing and two, the unreal and twisted element of their actions. Their mindset is not sane as well so possibly starting from the torturers will help the higher authorities realize that such interrogational torture techniques are not effective.

  2. I think that it is unlikely that torture will ever be completely gone from our system on all levels; however, I do not think that there can be no progress towards a system in which torture is an extreme abnormality. There is no telling how many torture camps the United States has, but the first step towards reducing the number of camps should be to make it very clear that the people do not approve of the practice under any circumstances. Hopefully, the international community would support us in our efforts to curb the torture practices of our government which would put further pressure for reform. It seems that, if the U.S. continues to use these prison camps, then the people and international community must continue to protest its actions.


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