- The government denies there are secret prisons and condemns the report
- Iraq has a secret prison where detainees are tortured, the group alleges
- Human Rights Watch also says security forces have killed peaceful protesters
- Women and journalists are not being protected, the group says
The human rights situation in Iraq is worse now than it was a year ago, the campaign group Human Rights Watch argues in a new report out Sunday, warning that people are being tortured with impunity in secret prisons.
The group says it uncovered a secret prison where detainees were beaten, hung upside down and given electric shocks to sensitive parts of their bodies. Human Rights Watch based its claims on the testimony of detainees themselves.
The Justice Ministry announced in March that it would close the facility, Camp Honor, but Human Rights Watch says it has "credible information that elite forces may still hold and interrogate detainees at Camp Honor."
The group says the forces who control the facility report to the military office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki.
The government says it is still facing a major terrorist threat and that detentions take place in accordance with the judicial process.
Ali al-Mousawi, an advisor to al-Maliki, strongly condemned the report Sunday.
He denied that there are secret prisons in Iraq or that that Iraqi authorities have been torturing prisoners, but admitted there could be "individual cases committed by individual security forces" who, he said, would be "held accountable for their violations."
But Samer Muscati of Human Rights Watch is not convinced.
"It's not a one-off thing that is happening. ... This is unfortunately a routine process that is going on," he said of abuse of of prisoners.
"The security forces that have engaged in abuses need to be held to account," he said, insisting: "There needs to be a strong emphasis from the government that this will not be tolerated."
The group was also critical of the crackdown on peaceful protesters by security forces, saying both the federal government and regional authorities in Kurdistan "responded with violence" and "used legal means to curtail protests."
At least 10 protesters and bystanders have been killed in Kurdistan, and more than 250 injured, the group said.
Another dozen were killed by security forces elsewhere in the country during nationwide demonstrations in February, Human Rights Watch said.
Journalists in Iraq also suffered abuse and worse, with five journalists and one other media worker killed, the group said, citing the Committee to Protect Journalists.
And women and girls continued to be the victims of violence, both from extremists who target women involved in public life, and family members who commit "honor" crimes against them, Human Rights Watch said.
Al-Mousawi, the advisor to the prime minister, denied the government had cracked down on protesters, the freedom of expression or the media.
Amnesty International has also been critical of the Iraqi government, accusing it of failing to protect the media and civilians, carrying out executions and treating Iranian refugees in the country improperly.