Military and U.S. diplomatic sources said some detainees at the center in the Green Zone have been held as long as two years, noting that restricted access prevented them from investigating allegations of beatings and other violence, the Los Angeles Times reported.
"It is inaccessible, and no one can go there," one diplomatic official told the newspaper. "Lawyers cannot get there. Families cannot go there."
The operation of the facility, called Camp Honor, by the Baghdad Brigade and the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism bureau, raises questions about the amount of authority an office or person -- such as Maliki in his effort to centralize power -- should accumulate, officials said. The breadth of Maliki's power was a key roadblock to forming a government since elections in March.
The brigade received attention in 2009 when Iraq's Human Rights Ministry discovered a secret prison elsewhere in Baghdad that held 431 Sunni Arab detainees, who said they were tortured. The interrogators were sent from the Baghdad Brigade's Green Zone jail, a U.S. Embassy cable viewed by the Los Angeles Times indicated, while a separate communique said the brigade "reports directly to the prime minister's office."
At the time, Maliki acknowledged some abuse could have occurred at Camp Honor, but pledged a crackdown. However, at least one Iraqi official and a senior diplomatic source said they received new reports of beatings and sexual abuse at the jail, the Times reported Sunday.
Iraqi officials knowledgeable about the situation said they're disheartened by the failure of Maliki's office to overhaul the elite units, suggesting he perhaps doesn't know the lack of reform at the jail.
Iraqi officials say they are seeing efforts to aggressively monitor human rights have been curtailed since the installation of a new human rights minister closely aligned with Maliki, the Times said.
"The Human Rights Ministry will not be active," an Iraqi security official said. "They will do what the prime minister's office tells them."
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