BAGHDAD?Iraq's prime minister said on Saturday there were no secret prisons in his country, denying an international rights watchdog's report of such a facility in Baghdad.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Tuesday: "Elite security forces controlled by the military office of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki of Iraq are operating a secret detention site in Baghdad."
"It is a lie," Maliki said in an interview with AFP.
"We don't have secret prisons, we don't have political detainees or secret detainees," he said, denying HRW assertions that elite forces were also torturing detainees with impunity at a different facility in the capital.
The claims by the rights group came a week after the Los Angeles Times reported some detainees at a prison in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone had been abused and held without charge for up to two years.
HRW said that in late November, Iraqi authorities moved nearly 300 detainees to a secret site within a military base known as Camp Justice in the Kadhimiyah neighbourhood of north Baghdad, citing interviews it had conducted and classified government documents it obtained.
"The hurried transfers took place just days before an international inspection team was to examine conditions at the detainees' previous location at Camp Honour in the Green Zone," HRW said in a statement.
"This issue of the secret prisons was created by some politicians that belong to Al-Qaeda and the Baathists," Maliki said, referring to members of the Baath party of executed dictator Saddam Hussein.
He said that some prisoners from northern Nineveh province had been transferred to a facility in Baghdad, where they had been inspected by the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Maliki added that detainees at such facilities were either from Al-Qaeda, gang members or Baathist loyalists of Saddam, who was ousted in the 2003 US-led invasion.
"We do not need secrecy, we speak and arrest, and judge according to the constitution," Maliki said.
"All the prisons were visited by international organisations and human rights groups," he added.