US-supported Iraqi officials implemented with impunity the systematic torture of detainees, cables reveal
Iraqi detainees were severely tortured, beaten, and raped in an Iraqi National Police detention complex in 2006, according to a confidential State Department cable released by WikiLeaks. Discovery by US officials of the abuse did not lead to criminal investigations of the perpetrators and much of the mistreatment was permitted to continue.
On May 30, 2006, “a joint US-Iraqi inspection” of an Iraqi detention facility “discovered more than 1,400 detainees in squalid, cramped conditions,” many of whom were illegally detained. Prisoners “displayed bruising, broken bones, and lash-marks, many claimed to have been hung by handcuffs from a hook in the ceiling and beaten on the soles of their feet and their buttocks.”
The inspectors found a torture contraption where “a hook…on the ceiling of an empty room at the facility” was “attached [to] a chain-and-pulley system ordinarily used for lifting vehicles” and that “apparent bloodspots stained the floor underneath.” All 41 prisoners interviewed by US inspectors had reported being tortured and 37 juveniles were held illegally.
Rape and sexual abuse, primarily of young teenagers, was also widespread. “A number of juvenile detainees,” reads the cable, “alleged…that interrogators had used threats and acts of anal rape to induce confessions and had forced juveniles to fellate them during interrogations.”
The Iraqi Ministry of Interior (MOI), allegedly responsible for most of the mistreatment, had cooperated with the US to transfer hundreds of detainees from other Baghdad INP facilities,” including the US Forward Operating Base Justice, helping to exacerbate the “severe overcrowding” described in the cable.
The detention facility, referred to in the cable only as “Site 4,” was “well over acceptable capacity” leaving detainees with insufficient space to lie down, poor air circulation, overflowing toilets, and sewage spills into cellblocks. Conditions were so bad that detainees were suffering “from lice, scabies, and infections” and a limited water supply.
MOI officials put forth a “bad apple” explanation to US inspectors, claiming that only three interrogators abused their prisoners. But the Ambassador who wrote the cable dismissed this as almost impossible, and several more torturers were identified in following days. “Following the inspection of ‘Site 4,'” reports Kevin Gosztola “arrest warrants for ’50 suspected abusers’ were issued, but MOI “only executed three of those warrants” and no trials were held for the suspects.
Although the Ambassador who wrote the cable made strict recommendations to initiate criminal investigations and release illegally held detainees, no thorough accountability was ever applied to the case of Site 4. Other instances of close cooperation between the US and abusive Iraqi forces in the MOI have been previously uncovered and the Iraq War Logs published by WikiLeaks revealed a secret US military order to ignore cases of torture and abuse by Iraqi interrogators.
The revelations serve as a reminder of the still incomplete picture of detainee torture by US and US-supported groups since the war on terror. Details are now known of abuse at Guantanamo, Bagram, Abu Ghraib, and the rendition sites detainees were sent to, but the full extent of the abuse and criminality has yet to surface.
Signs are that such abuse is continuing. Not only has the Obama administration established a system of indefinite detention without charge for many Guantanamo detainees, but a United Nations report recently found that the US-supported Afghan government is torturing prisoners at various Afghan prisons through beatings, sexual assault, and electric shock treatment.
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