Iraqis Tortured at Secret Baghdad Prison, says Watchdog

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The Guardian/UK

Iraqis Tortured at Secret Baghdad Prison, says Watchdog

Beatings, electric shocks and rape commonplace according to Human Rights Watch interviews with detainees

by
Mark Tran

A soldier closes the gate at an Iraqi-run prison in Baghdad. Human Rights Watch says the torture of detainees at a secret prison was routine. (Photograph: Karim Kadim/AP)

Iraqis held at a secret prison in Baghdad were routinely tortured
using whips, electric shocks and rape, according to an investigation by
Human Rights Watch.

The organisation
said it had interviewed 42 men who were among about 300 detainees
transferred from the secret facility in the old Muthanna airport in
west Baghdad to al-Rusafa into a special block of 19 cage-type cells
over the past several weeks. The existence of the secret prison was revealed in the Los Angeles Times.

All the detainees interviewed, Human Rights Watch said, described the same methods of torture.

"The
jailers suspended their captives handcuffed and blindfolded upside down
by means of two bars, one placed behind their calves and the other
against their shins. All had terrible scabs and bruising on their legs.
The interrogators then kicked, whipped and beat the detainees.
Interrogators also placed a dirty plastic bag over the detainee's head
to close off his air supply. Typically, when the detainee passed out
from this ordeal, his interrogators awakened him with electric shocks
to his genitals or other parts of his body."

Human Rights Watch
called on the Iraqi authorities to hold a thorough investigation into
the allegations, which come at a time of heightened political
uncertainty and tension after close parliamentary elections last month.
The former prime minister Ayad Allawi, whose cross-sectarian coalition
won a surprise victory, today called for the formation of an impartial
caretaker government to prevent the country from sliding into violence
and counter what he says are efforts by the prime minister, Nouri
al-Maliki, to change the results.

US officials fear that the
disclosure of a secret prison in which Sunni Arabs were systematically
tortured would not only become an international embarrassment, but
would make it harder for Maliki to put together a viable coalition
government.

Human Rights Watch said the stories of torture were
credible and consistent, with most of the 300 detainees displaying
fresh scars and injuries that they said were a result of routine and
systematic torture. All were accused of aiding and abetting terrorism,
and many said they were forced to sign false confessions.

"The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "The government needs to prosecute all of those responsible for this systematic brutality."

The
men interviewed said the Iraqi army detained them between September and
December 2009 after sweeps in and around Mosul, a stronghold of Sunni
militants, including al-Qaida in Mesopotamia. They told Human Rights
Watch that torture was most intense during their first week at
Muthanna. Well-informed sources told Human Rights Watch that the secret
facility was under the jurisdiction of Maliki's military office.

One
24-year-old detainee, called I, said he was raped numerous times with a
broomstick and pistol. An interrogator told him that they would rape
his mother and sister if he did not confess. During another beating,
interrogators hit him so hard that he lost several front teeth.

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