Abuse Cited In 2nd Jail Operated by Iraqi Ministry

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By Ellen Knickmeyer
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, December 12, 2005

BAGHDAD, Dec. 11 -- An Iraqi government search of a detention center in Baghdad operated by Interior Ministry special commandos found 13 prisoners who had suffered abuse serious enough to require medical treatment, U.S. and Iraqi officials said Sunday night.

An Iraqi official with firsthand knowledge of the search said that at least 12 of the 13 prisoners had been subjected to "severe torture," including sessions of electric shock and episodes that left them with broken bones.

"Two of them showed me their nails, and they were gone," the official said on condition of anonymity because of security concerns.

A government spokesman, Laith Kubba, said Sunday night that any findings at the prison would be "subject to an investigation," but he declined to comment on the allegations.

The site, which was searched Thursday, is the second Interior Ministry detention center where cases of prisoner abuse have been confirmed by U.S. and Iraqi officials.

U.S. troops found the first site last month when they entered an Interior Ministry building in central Baghdad to look for a Sunni Arab teenager they believed had been detained, officers said at the time. Several prisoners at that site appeared to have suffered beatings, and many were emaciated, U.S. and Iraqi officials and witnesses said.

The abuse alleged at the prison found this week appeared to have been more severe. Asked specifically what types of torture were found in the commandos' prison, the official cited breaking of bones, torture with electric shock, extraction of fingernails and cigarette burns to the neck and back.

International law, including the U.N. Convention Against Torture, bans torture in all cases. U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad issued a sharp public rebuke of the Iraqi government after the secret prison was discovered last month, demanding in a statement that all detainees nationwide be treated in accord with human rights.

Prime Minister Ibrahim Jafari, under heavy pressure from Khalilzad and Army Gen. George W. Casey Jr., the top U.S. commander in Iraq, ordered a nationwide investigation of detention centers after that discovery. The prison investigated Thursday was the first center examined as part of the government-ordered inquiry.

Lt. Col. Guy Rudisill, a spokesman for U.S. military detention issues, said American authorities had already been aware that the prison searched Thursday existed. U.S. forces had not known about the previous facility.

Prison inspectors from the Ministry of Human Rights and representatives of other ministries participated in the commando prison search, the ministry said in a statement. Authorities did not say whether any Americans were involved in the inquiry.

Investigators said they found 625 prisoners at the center but declined to give details about them. Most of the detainees found at the secret prison last month were Sunni Arabs who had been picked up by forces of the Shiite Muslim-dominated Interior Ministry.


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