It was recently revealed, in a US-backed raid, that torture is going on under the auspices of the Ministry of the Interior. Despite the apparent media blackout on the topic, torture has been an ongoing tactic of the counter-insurgency work in Iraq. At first it was employed at Abu Ghraib and possibly other US military establishments in Iraq, and it quickly became a prime tactic of the newly formed Iraqi Police and Iraqi National Guard.
The tactic became a regular tool in the Iraqi counter-insurgency toolbox and has since been used widely throughout Iraq. Ali Shalal Abbas and a number of former prisoners from Abu Ghraib formed the Association of Victims of American Occupation Prisons, or AVAOP to combat the issue of torture in Iraq. Ali’s organization alleges that there are at least 200 secret prisons similar to the one uncovered last week. They have many photos of Iraqis who have been tortured and are working on a full report about torture in Iraq.
On Sunday Mr. Abbas visited the office of the United Nations in Amman Jordan and presented them with a list of sites where AVAOP reports torture to be occurring. The Ministry of the Interior directs the seven locations released by the AVAOP to the UN Sunday. This is the same branch of the government overseeing the prison recently raided by the United States.
Khalid Jarrar, a Palestinian Iraqi who lives in Jordan, was also detained by the Ministry of the Interior. He was held in the Ministry of Interior building, which is also the location of one of the torture facilities identified in the AVAOP’s report. He claims to have been saved from torture only by the intervention of his family, “What happened is that my family could find the interrogators and then by knowing the right people and giving the right gifts, I wasn’t tortured unlike all the people that were there.” Those who helped his family ensure Khalid’s safety prefer to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution by the interim government.
During the two weeks that Khalid was imprisoned he witnessed numerous acts of torture. He confirmed the allegation of the AVAOP that the Ministry of the Interior runs a detention facility in their Baghdad headquarters. “Everyone that went through the Iraqi police or Iraqi National Guard was tortured brutally in a way that you can’t imagine. They were hardly alive. Kids 16 years old and old old men whoever was there was tortured and beaten for hours and hung upside down while being beaten.”
More evidence that people are being tortured by the Iraqi police has surfaced with the case of Omar Ahmed. He was arrested in the Adhamiya neighborhood of Baghdad on September 1st, 2005 with two friends. Eyewitnesses who wish to remain anonymous said there were no weapons or anything in their car, and it was impossible to determine why they were arrested.
Six days later Omar’s family was looking for him in he morgue. It is common practice now in Iraq when a family member or friend goes missing to look for him or her in the morgue if a few days go by with no word. On September 7th they found Omar’s dead body in the morgue, covered with wounds that indicated torture. His head appeared to have multiple puncture wounds or cigarette burns, and his body was covered with abrasions of various kinds.
Photos have also recently surfaced about another man, about whom little is known. His name is believed to be Dhiaa, and photos clearly show his skull was punctured with what is believed to have been an electric drill. Dhiaa is one of the latest victims in what is an expanding scandal of abuse at the hands of Iraqi officials.
These cases of torture as well as many cases of abuse under the Coalition Forces have been well documented. The AVAOP, the Christian Peacemaker Teams, Amnesty International and even Iraqi journalists have made various reports about the torture occurring in Iraq over the past two and a half years since the invasion. Mr. Abbas made it clear to me that the torture creates many problems for Iraq’s future. “When these people are inside the prison, many bad things happen to them, and when they are freed from the prison, they have become criminals. I hope the American people will help the Iraqi victims and stop these prisons. Because when someone comes through this, when he leaves, he becomes a criminal.
[Editor’s note: This article was written with local support in Amman from Shadi Al-Kasim and Jamil Najjar]