BAGHDAD - Iraq is still holding prisoners at a detention facility that has been at the centre of torture allegations despite Baghdad having said it closed it a year ago, Human Rights Watch claimed on Tuesday. Iraq immediately denied the allegations, but the New York-based rights group called for Baghdad to start an independent investigation into allegations of torture and mistreatment, as well as other issues. "Iraqi security forces are grabbing people outside of the law, without trial or known charges, and hiding them away in incommunicado sites," Joe Stork, HRW's deputy Middle East director, said in a statement released by the rights group.

"The Iraqi government should immediately reveal the names and locations of all detainees, promptly free those not charged with crimes, and bring those facing charges before an independent judicial authority."

HRW said 14 officials, lawyers and detainees it interviewed said individuals had been held recently at Camp Honor, the apparent closure of which was announced by Justice Minister Hassan al-Shammari in March 2011.

It also said judicial investigators were still carrying out interrogations at the facility.

Deputy Justice Minister Busho Ibrahim, however, said the claim was untrue and insisted the prison was closed last year, telling AFP, "We closed the jail last year, and we withdrew our employees and the detainees to prisons outside the Green Zone," referring to the heavily-fortified centre of the capital.

Previous to Shammari's announcement last year, The Los Angeles Times reported that prisoners were kept under harsh conditions at Camp Honor, a detention facility in the defence ministry complex in the Green Zone, sometimes for up to two years.

Former detainees at the facility told HRW last year that "interrogators beat them, hung them upside down for hours at a time, administered electric shocks to various body parts, including their genitals, and asphyxiated them repeatedly with plastic bags put over their heads until they passed out."

London-based Amnesty International also said in a February 2011 report that Iraq operates secret jails and routinely tortures prisoners to extract confessions that are used to convict them.