Torture Chambers in Occupied Iraq

November 21, 2005

Evidence emerged last week that the U.S. military knew about a secret military prison, with torture chambers, run by Iraqi police at an Interior Ministry building in the center of Baghdad.

On November 15, reports started appearing in the press of the discovery of underground cells in a Baghdad prison where over 175 people were huddled together. Many of the prisoners appeared to have been brutally beaten and most had been malnourished for weeks. Some reports stated there were several dead bodies in the cell that showed signs of severe torture. All were in need of medical attention. Iraqi officials acknowledged that torture had occurred and that "instruments of torture" had been found.

Although the U.S. claims to have "discovered the prison during a raid," some eyewitnesses and former inmates claim that U.S. military personnel were well aware of the prison. Some Iraqi citizens stated that they had met repeatedly with American officials during the past year, telling them of the abuse and torture at the prison, but nothing was ever done.

One former prisoner stated that he and other inmates were regularly beaten and electrocuted, and he was left blindfolded for the duration of his stay, for more than three months. Abu Jasim, 40, said he and two relatives were imprisoned there last June, where he shared a 20-square-meter room with about 80 detainees. American officers, he said, were seen walking through the hallways. Prisoners were allowed to go to the toilet only every three days and were forced to wear blindfolds virtually the entire time. "We were beaten with cables, hoses and wooden sticks, and electrocuted all the time," Abu Jasim said. "Your back would turn purple or dark blue, depending on what you were beaten with."

One Iraqi government official stated "I've never seen such a situation like this during the past two years in Baghdad. This is the worst," he told CNN. "I saw signs of physical abuse by brutal beating, one or two detainees were paralyzed and some had their skin peeled off." "In order to search for one terrorist, they detain hundreds of innocent people and torture them brutally," said Mohsen Abdul-Hamid, a local politician.

Reporters and non-governmental agency staff are saying that the shocking revelation of the prison reveals how paramilitary units working for the government, and death squads allegedly linked to it, are carrying out a savage war in the shadows. People are arrested and disappear for months. Bodies appear every week of men, and sometimes women, executed with their hands tied behind their backs. Some have been grotesquely mutilated with knives and electric drills before their deaths.