42 men interviewed describe similar accounts of being extensively tortured while in captivity at a Baghdad prison, secret until recently.

28 Apr 2010 | InfoShop News

Dozens of men corroborate extensive torture toward false confessions during their prolonged, indefinite detention in a Baghdad prison—kept secret for months—after village raids from September through December 2009 by the Iraqi government, interviews with Human Rights Watch (H.R.W.) reveal. The men were kidnapped during raids in Sunni Arab areas in Nineveh.

The prison was discovered in March after families had been searching for missing relatives since October. The government has since vowed to shut the prison down and released 75 captives, while transferring 275 others to “regular jails”, Ned Parker reported at the Los Angeles Times last week.

More than 100 were tortured, regularly beaten, electrocuted, suffocated, put in stress positions for hours, repeatedly raped, extorted from, one Iraqi official familiar with the prison said.

“Detainees in a secret Baghdad detention facility were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized,” H. R. W. said in a statement yesterday after interviewing 42 of the men at the Al Rusafa Detention Center on 26 April 2010:

They 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, after the existence of the secret prison was revealed.

The men’s stories were credible and consistent. Most of the 300 displayed fresh scars and injuries they said were a result of routine and systematic torture they had experienced at the hands of interrogators at Muthanna. All were accused of aiding and abetting terrorism, and many said they were forced to sign false confessions….

All the detainees interviewed described the same methods of torture employed by their Iraqi interrogators. The jailers suspended the detainees 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. During the interrogations, security officials mocked the detainees and called them “terrorists” and “Ba’athists.” To stop the torture, detainees said, they either offered fake confessions or signed or fingerprinted a prepared confession without having read it. Even after they confessed, many said, torture persisted.

The detainees told Human Rights Watch of other torture methods as well. They described how interrogators and security officials sodomized some detainees with broomsticks and pistol barrels and, the detainees said, raped younger detainees, who were then sent to a different detention site. Some young men said they had been forced to perform oral sex on interrogators and guards. Interrogators also forced some detainees to molest one another. Security officials whipped detainees with heavy cables, pulled out fingernails and toenails, burned them with acid and cigarettes, and smashed their teeth. If detainees still refused to confess, interrogators would threaten to rape their wives, mothers, sisters, or daughters. The interrogation sessions usually lasted three or four hours and occurred every three or four days.

Exceprts from the detainees’ testimonies to H.R.W.:

Detainee A was captured with 33 others in Mosul on the night of September 17, 2009: “The interrogators would tie my arms behind my back and blindfold me before they would hang me upside down and beat me. They would suffocate me with a bag until I passed out and would wake me with an electric shock to my genitals. Even after they forced me to confess that I killed ten people, the torture never stopped. Ten days before I was transferred out on April 8, I endured a horrific beating for speaking to an inspection team from the Human Rights Ministry. After they left, the prison staff beat me so badly that I urinated blood.”

Detainee B is a pediatrician who saw one of his cellmates dragged out for a torture session on 18 Jan 2010. When they brought him back to the cell, the doctor noticed swelling above his liver and suspected internal bleeding and told the guards that the man needed immediate medical attention. The guards took the tortured man out but returned him an hour later saying that he was fine. He died in the cell an hour later.

Detainee C was arrested in September in Mosul: “The torture sessions lasted for hours on end. The guards would come into our cell and grab three or four detainees at a time. They would walk us to the interrogation room to begin the abuse. They would beat us for hours and so badly that we could not stand up so they would have to drag us back to our cells. They would let us recover for three days before the cycle of torture began anew.”

Detainee D, a formal general in the Iraqi army and now a British citizen, who is in a wheelchair, was arrested on Dec. 7, after he returned to Mosul from London to find his son, who had been detained. His jailers refused him medicine for his diabetes and high blood pressure. “I was beaten up severely, especially on my head,” he told Human Rights Watch. “They broke one of my teeth during the beatings. … Ten people tortured me; four from the investigation commission and six soldiers. …. They applied electricity to my penis and sodomized me with a stick. I was forced to sign a confession that they wouldn’t let me read.”

Iraqi soldiers arrested Detainee E, a 21-year-old, on Dec. 19 at his home in Mosul: “During the first eight days they tortured me daily. They would put a bag on my head and start to kick my stomach and beat me all over my body. They threatened that if I didn’t confess, they would bring my sisters and mother to be raped. I heard him on the cellphone giving orders to rape my sisters and mother.” During one torture session, the man, who was blindfolded and handcuffed, was stripped and ordered to stroke another detainee’s penis. After he was forced to the floor, the other detainee was forced on top of him. “It hurt when it started to penetrate me. The guards were all laughing and saying, ‘He’s very tight, let’s bring some soap!’ When I experienced the pain, I asked them to stop and that I would confess. Although I confessed to the killings, I mentioned fake names since I never killed anyone. So the torture continued even after I confessed because they suspected my confession was false.” One of the guards also forced him to have oral sex.

Detainee F was arrested with his brother in Mosul on Dec. 16. His interrogators strung him upside down and severely beat him with his eyes blindfolded and his hands tied behind his back. He suffered broken ribs from the beatings and urinated blood for days. The interrogators threatened to rape his wife if he did not confess. One time he was stripped naked and told to penetrate another naked inmate lying on the floor or that he would otherwise be raped by two male guards.

Detainees G and H, father (59) and son (29) respectively, were arrested at their house in Mosul on September 30. Both endured sessions in which interrogators hung them upside down and beat them. During one session the father was stripped naked in front of the son, and the son was told they if he did not confess they would rape his father. The father was told that if he did not confess they would kill his son. The son was subsequently sodomized with a broomstick and the guards’ fingers.

Detainee I, 24, was arrested on September 30 in Mosul. He still has severe leg injuries and wets his bed after he was sodomized numerous times with a broomstick and pistol. During one session, 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.

“The revelations could further polarize Iraqis, still coming to grips with the scars of the sectarian conflict between 2005 and 2007,” Sam Dagher reports at The New York Times. In Nineveh, Iraq Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki— a Shiite—is already “largely perceived as a sectarian leader with a personal vendetta against anyone associated with the former Sunni-led government of Saddam Hussein”.

“This breeds extremism,” Sheik Abdullah Humed, a Nineveh tribal leader, said. “In our country a man who is raped will commit suicide, and how do you think he will do it?”

After the discovery of the secret prison at Muthanna, I wrote about how this is not foreign element of the Iraqi government—the conduct and systematic cover-up and denial. It is system replicated from the U.S. government exported to Iraq. The Obama Administration is de facto immunizing murder, torture, humiliation, threats against children by the C.I.A. and the lawyers who criminally violated their licenses by justifying it. This along with the Bush Administration’s secret prison in Lithuania, the government’s current ‘black jail’ in Afghanistan and immigrant jail in New York City.

Mr. Dagher adds:

“Abu Ghraib was a picnic” compared with the secret prison, said Sheik Abdullah Humedi Ajeel al-Yawar, one of the most influential Sunni Arab tribal leaders in the northern province of Nineveh, where the detainees were rounded up by Iraqi soldiers based on suspicions that they had links to the insurgency and brought to Baghdad with little due process. Abu Ghraib is the prison at which American guards tortured Iraqi prisoners, severely damaging Iraqis’ trust in the United States….

“America is the symbol of democracy, but then you have the abuses at Abu Ghraib,” Mr. Maliki said. “The American government took tough measures, and we are doing the same, so where is the problem and why this raucousness?”

The U.S. State Department documented over 500 cases on torture in Iraq prisons in 2009.

Contradicting his own Human Rights Ministry, PM Maliki denies the existence of secret prisons, calling the center at Muthanna a “transit site under the control of the Ministry of Defense, which used it for a ‘specific period'”, Mr. Dagher reports. The prime minister also denies the existence of torture at the facilities, countering the testimonials to H.R.W. as a political conspiracy—that his opponents visited the prison and told the captives to start “rubbing matches on some of their body parts”.

Iraqiya, a secular alliance headed by former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, defeated the prime minister’s State of Law bloc 91-89 in the initial counting of the votes of the March 7 election. Since then, two Iraqiya members’ elections to Parliament have been overturned and the Justice and Accountability Commission is moving to exclude nine more winning MP’s. Mr. Allawi is calling for a “caretaker government” to rule on an interim basis and new elections, Ernesto Londoño reports at The Washington Post.

The new prime minister must be appointed by more than half of the 325 ministers of Parliament. “Because of the closeness of the election, negotiations to form a new government are widely expected to be protracted and acrimonious,” Mr. Londoño reports.

  1. […] in Iraq, more than 100 were tortured, regularly beaten, electrocuted, suffocated, put in stress positions for hours, […]

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