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Abuse Cited In 2nd Jail Operated by Iraqi Ministry

"The team discovered a number of problems, which the ministries of Interior and Human Rights are working together to correct," the statement said. "The facility was overcrowded: As a result, the Ministry of Justice has agreed to receive 75 detainees from this facility at Rusafa Prison; Iraqi judges released 56 detainees directly following the inspection. . . . Thirteen of the detainees were removed from the detention facility to receive medical treatment.''

Rudisill said the 56 freed prisoners were released on the recommendation of Iraqi judges who took part in the inspection. "They quickly looked through and found in these cases specifically there were no reasons to hold these individuals," he said.

U.S. diplomatic and military officials said Iraqi officials were leading the investigation and declined to offer further comment.

Torture was routine in Iraqi prisons under former president Saddam Hussein. U.S. forces in Iraq drew international criticism for abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad in which military guards photographed themselves humiliating naked Iraqi detainees. There was no suggestion of U.S. involvement in the latest abuses at the Interior Ministry prisons. The Iraqi government, led by Shiite parties with strong ties to Iran, has strongly rejected allegations of Iranian intelligence involvement in Interior Ministry prisons.

The Iraqi Interior Ministry has a significant number of former militia members and members of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, a Shiite party that is the largest in the government.

The country's Sunni minority has accused the Interior Ministry of taking a leading role in severe abuses, including the targeting of Sunnis by alleged death squads. Since the current government took office in late April, the bodies of scores of Sunni men have been found dumped on roadsides, in dry riverbeds and in fields. Most of the men were found handcuffed and shot. In several cases, family members have said the men were taken away by people in Interior Ministry uniforms and vehicles.

The government has repeatedly said it was investigating the allegations. No results of any investigations have been announced.

"The investigation was extended," Jafari, a member of another Shiite religious party in the governing coalition, told the Reuters news agency on Sunday. "It is not finished. We are investigating all violations. We do not accept any violations committed against any Iraqis."

Last week, the Interior Ministry fired its top human rights official, Nouri Nouri, without providing an explanation.

Sunni political leaders charge that similar incidents of torture are occurring at other Interior Ministry detention facilities and have identified some of the sites by name.

Shiite political leaders say the U.S. military frequently visits the facilities and suggest that American authorities would know about any abuse.

Last week, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered military commanders to come up with clear rules for how U.S. forces should respond if they witness detainee abuse. The order followed an exchange between Rumsfeld and Marine Gen. Peter Pace, the Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman, at a news conference Nov. 29.

Pace said then that it was "absolutely the responsibility of every U.S. service member if they see inhumane treatment being conducted to intervene to stop it."

Rumsfeld said, "I don't think you mean they have an obligation to physically stop it; it's to report it."

Pace responded, "If they are physically present when inhumane treatment is taking place, sir, they have an obligation to try to stop it."

U.S. officials have said the FBI and the U.S. military are aiding the prison investigation. Authorities have identified more than 1,000 detention centers across Iraq.


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