Via the NY Times:
The torture of Iraqi detainees at a new secret prison in Baghdad was far more systematic and brutal than initially reported, Human Rights Watch reported on Tuesday. The existence of the prison, which housed mostly Sunni Arab prisoners, has created a political furor in Iraq, prompted government denials and fanned sectarian tensions. “Abu Ghraib was a picnic” compared with the secret prison, said Sheik Abdullah Humedi Ajeel al-Yawar, one of the most influential Sunni Arab tribal leaders in the northern province of Nineveh, where the detainees were rounded up by Iraqi soldiers based on suspicions that they had links to the insurgency and brought to Baghdad with little due process. Abu Ghraib is the prison at which American guards tortured Iraqi prisoners, severely damaging Iraqis’ trust in the United States.
Human Rights Watch gained access on Monday to about 300 male detainees transferred from the once secret prison at the Old Muthanna military airfield to the Rusafa prison in Baghdad and documented its findings, which it described as “credible and consistent,” in a draft report provided to The New York Times on Tuesday by the rights group.
The group said it interviewed 42 detainees who displayed fresh scars and wounds. Many said they were raped, sodomized with broomsticks and pistol barrels, or forced to engage in sexual acts with one another and their jailers. All said they were tortured by being hung upside down and then whipped and kicked before being suffocated with a plastic bag. Those who passed out were revived, they said, with electric shocks to their genitals and other parts of their bodies.
“The horror we found suggests torture was the norm in Muthanna,” said Joe Stork, deputy director of the Middle East program at Human Rights Watch. Mr. Stork called on the Iraqi government to conduct a thorough investigation and prosecute all officials “responsible for this systematic brutality.”
The prison’s discovery comes at a delicate time for Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki, who is vigorously working to keep power after his coalition narrowly lost the March 7 national elections. The revelations could further polarize Iraqis, still coming to grips with the scars of the sectarian conflict between 2005 and 2007. All those held at the secret prison before it was shut down were brought to Baghdad from Sunni Arab areas in Nineveh where Mr. Maliki, a Shiite, is largely perceived as a sectarian leader with a personal vendetta against anyone associated with the former Sunni-led government of Saddam Hussein.
Sheik Abdullah Humedi, the tribal leader from Nineveh, warned that the torture revelations had once more inflamed sectarian passions and could plunge the country into a fresh cycle of violence.
“This breeds extremism,” he said. “In our country a man who is raped will commit suicide, and how do you think he will do it?”