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Inspectors Find More Torture at Iraqi Jails

A U.S.-Iraqi inspection team photographed men being held at an Interior Ministry detention center in Baghdad Feb. 16.
A U.S.-Iraqi inspection team photographed men being held at an Interior Ministry detention center in Baghdad Feb. 16. (Photos Provided To The Washington Post)

U.S. efforts to eliminate torture in Iraq's prisons and detention centers include training Iraqi corrections officers, increasing capacity at detention centers and training Iraqi security forces on the rights and care of detainees, Gardner said.

The Iraqi official involved in the inspections said he saw abused detainees at all the sites visited. At a sandbagged checkpoint in Baghdad's Green Zone, the official pulled from his pocket a press clipping quoting Pace's remarks of Nov. 29, unfolded it and read it aloud.

"I want them to do what General Pace said," the Iraqi official said. Interior Ministry forces and allied Shiite militias have become more adept at hiding detainees and they kidnap victims from inspectors, he said. Iraqis "are looking for some of the Americans to do the right thing," he added. "Don't be intimidated by the Iraqi politicians."

According to the Iraqi official, the Americans initially said they would suspend their policy of removing prisoners from sites where abuse was found until after Iraq's national elections, which were held Dec. 15, because disclosures of Interior Ministry abuses were politically sensitive. The elections came and went, the official said, and the Americans continued leaving detainees at sites that held bruised, burned and limping prisoners.

Iraqi Justice Minister Abdul Hussein Shandal, however, said the Americans "don't have the right" to transfer detainees from detention centers operated by Iraqi ministries. The Nov. 13 raid "was the last incident in which the U.S. asked for such a transfer," he said.

While the interviews with top U.S. and Iraqi officials confirmed the continuing findings of torture victims at Iraqi detention centers, Maj. Gen. Rick Lynch, the main U.S. military spokesman in Iraq, broadly denied in remarks to U.S. reporters in Baghdad that any abuse had been found at any of the centers since the initial raid on Nov. 13.

"In these facilities that we did inspect unannounced, we saw no signs of abuse," Lynch told reporters at a briefing March 30. "The facilities were, by our standards, overcrowded, but the people being held at those facilities were being properly taken care of; they were being fed, they had water, they were taken care of. So no abuse, no evidence of torture in those facilities."

Khalilzad, the U.S. ambassador, said in an interview that when Americans find abuse, "we document it, we investigate, we do a report, and we ultimately pass that report to the government."

After abuse was found at one Interior Ministry site, "that very day I went and talked to the government," Khalilzad said. "We take this very seriously."

Khalilzad's calls to rein in Shiite security forces and militias have put him on increasingly prickly terms with some members of Iraq's governing coalition of Shiite religious parties. Khalilzad has repeatedly urged that Interior Ministry forces be brought under the control of a nonsectarian minister.


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