[JURIST] Hundreds of Sunni men were detained without warrant and subjected to torture under authority of the military office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official profile, in Arabic; BBC profile], according to a Monday Los Angeles Times report [text]. More than 400 men were initially detained in October during sweeps of Nineveh province, an area in which al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] was active, and transferred to a Baghdad prison due to concerns over corruption in the provincial capitol of Mosul. According to Nineveh Governor Atheel al-Nujaifi, many of the men were not members of AQI and were detained without a warrant. Maliki maintains that the conditions of the prison were first revealed to him earlier this month, after Iraqi Human Rights Minister Wijdan Salim was allowed to inspect the facility. Salim's inspection teams found that all of the men had been kept in poor conditions and more than 100 of men had been subject to torture, including a former colonel under Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive], who died in January as a result. Since the inspections, 75 of the men have been freed and 275 have been transferred to other prisons. Maliki said that he plans to close [UPI report] the prison and arrest the officers responsible for the mistreatment of prisoners. News of the secret prison comes at a sensitive time for Maliki as he tries to build a government following the March parliamentary election [CEIP backgrounder; JURIST news archive], in which his Shiite dominated State of Law [official website] coalition came in a close second [Majlis report] to the cross-sectarian Iraqiya headed by former-prime minister Iyad Allawi [official website, in Arabic; Al Jazeera profile].
Maliki created a special committee [JURIST report] in June to investigate alleged abuse and torture in the country's prisons. Comprised of eight members, the committee includes representatives from human rights and judicial government agencies and security ministries. The decision to create the panel came shortly after charges were brought [JURIST report] against 43 Iraqi police officers for human rights abuses, warrantless arrests, and bribery allegations. The violations were discovered by an investigatory committee formed by Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani [JURIST news archive]. Loyalists to Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr [CFR profile] have pressured the Iraqi government over prison conditions that they claim include confessions elicited from torture and politically motivated false accusations. In August 2008, officials for Iraq's Human Rights Ministry said that they plan to prosecute those suspected of torturing inmates [JURIST report] of the country's prison system. In November 2005, US troops found 173 prisoners [JURIST report], many abused, in a secret bunker run by the Interior Ministry. Earlier that year, then-UN secretary-general Kofi Annan [official profile] said that Iraq's detention practices may violate international law and expressed concern [JURIST report] over the failure of Coalition forces to publish the results of their investigation into the torture allegations.