Iraqi army soldier guards detainees (photo: James Gordon)

[Updated - 1:36 PM ET]

A US State Embassy cable marked “confidential” and published by WikiLeaks reveals details on the detention of juveniles held in “Site 4″ in a Iraq Interior Ministry (MOI) detention complex. The juveniles allege sexual abuse by Iraqi interrogators, specifically that rapes were being used in the prison to induce confessions. The discovery of widespread abuse and torture, according to the diplomat who wrote the cable, is the worst since the infamous Jadriyah “Bunker” facility was discovered in 2005.

On May 30, 2006, a “joint US-Iraqi inspection” of the detention facility took place. The facility, located in central Baghdad, was found to have 1,400 detainees. They were in “two separate facilities” and “held in squalid, cramped conditions not uncommon in MOI (Ministry of Interior) Commando detention facilities.” Inspectors interviewed forty-one detainees, who had “bruising and lash-marks consistent with violent physical abuse.” And, thirty-seven juveniles, who had been “illegally detained,” were found in the facility, “many alleging sexual abuse.”

The cable sent out on June 10, 2006, reports:

A number of juvenile detainees, mostly young teenagers, alleged sexual abuse at the hands of MOI personnel — specifically, that MOI interrogators had used threats and acts of anal rape to induce confessions and had forced juveniles to fellate them during interrogations.  These allegations were also raised independently with inspectors by adult detainees who claimed knowledge of juvenile rapes.

“Site 4” suffers from “severe overcrowding,” which is “characteristic of many MOI INP detention facilities.” It notes:

Most cells have insufficient space to lie down and must sit entwined, knee-to-knee. The few toilets available are overflowing and sewage spills onto the floors. Many detainees, who are allowed little or no access to fresh air suffer from lice, scabies and infections. Food supply is adequate, but running water is limited to 1-2 hours per evening.”


In addition to overcrowding and the rape of juveniles illegally detained, the inspection team uncovers through interviews a chain-and-pulley system used to torture detainees:

Of the forty-one detainees interviewed on May 30 who 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.  A hook was discovered on the ceiling of an empty room at the facility; attached was a chain-and-pulley system ordinarily used for lifting vehicles.  Apparent bloodspots stained the floor underneath. (NOTE: The pulley was confiscated and is now at Post.  END NOTE.)

The cable indicates personnel at “Site 4” attempted to cover the abuse and torture the inspection team would find. The team was “initially refused access” to the facility. Guards were also caught on June 1 “attempting to hide four abused detainees in a guard tower” during a follow-on inspection by the multinational forces Special Police Training Team. Guards threatened detainees and told them not to talk to the Americans.

“Site 4” Commander Colonel Ali (no last name provided in the cable) and Iraq National Police (INP) Commander General Adnan Thabit reported the “’sole’ three individuals responsible for abusing detainees” were detained at the MOI “Site 1″ detention facility. However, US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad doesn’t buy this “few bad apples” defense:

It would be difficult, if not impossible, for senior MOI INP leadership responsible for Site 4 to be unaware of the prevalence of detainee abuse at the facility. This is suggested by the large number of detainees with serious physical injuries present at Site 4, the obvious and illegal presence of 37 juveniles, and the fact that hooks and pulleys used to hang detainees from the ceiling were kept in plain sight.

Juvenile detainees in the facility were transferred from Site 4 to an MOI INP facility at Muthanna airport temporarily in June. The few officers held responsible, including Colonel Ali, were “detained but not arrested,” which the cable notes is “a not-uncommon practice.” Detainees were prepared to testify against their abusers/torturers. [Note: In April 2010, Muthanna airport was discovered to have a secret detention facility with more than 400 detainees being held there.]

Few details on “Site 4” exist. The “Site 4” inspection is mentioned in a congressional “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2007.” The report finds “there were no new developments” in key 2006 cases, involving torture and abuse. “Lieutenant Colonel A,” accused of assaulting and torturing dozens of Sunnis, was in custody on behalf of the Shi’a milita at “Site 4” Baghdad Central Detention Facility in 2006, was in custody and awaiting a trial. In June 2006, following the inspection of “Site 4,” arrest warrants for “50 suspected abusers” were issued. MOI, however, only executed three of those warrants. No trials were held for the suspects.

A search of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch (HRW) reports uncovers little to nothing on the “Site 4” facility, even though the two human rights groups have produced reports on Iraqi abuse and torture at least since 2005. Also, it does not appear much happened to those suspected of torture, even though the inspection team was apparently repulsed by what was found in the facility. Whether the “Site 4″ facility is still operating or not is hard to discern.

Impunity is typical. If one recalls how the US military coexisted with the Interior Ministry’s Wolf Brigade, a death squad known to have tortured Iraqis, especially Sunnis, the failure of multinational forces to do anything about those likely involved in torture isn’t surprising. A military order, Frago 242, uncovered in the Iraq War Logs published by WikiLeaks shows the military operated under an order not to fully investigate torture or abuse at the hands of Iraqi interrogators. In fact, the military would threaten detainees with the possibility that they might be transferred and subjected to torture by the Wolf Brigade if they didn’t cooperate or confess during interrogations. It is likely the US military has played off Iraqi fears by promising Iraqis they would be detained in US detention facilities instead of Iraqi detention facilities if they did what was asked of them.

Finally, this is how US ambassador Khalilzad sums up the inspection of the facility:

MOI guards and interrogators at Site 4 appear to have engaged in illegal and violent acts openly and with impunity.  The frank admissions of MOI personnel that individual detainees merit physical abuse and the lackadaisical efforts to conceal that abuse support the contention — raised by multiple Iraqi interlocutors — that today’s INP are not only incapable of conducting detention operations to acceptable standards, but are unwilling to do so.

The brutality of Iraqi police, which the US and coalition forces are in charge of training, has been clearly documented and the State Department and US military is fully aware of the appalling abuse and torture that is systemic in Iraqi detention facilities. Nothing happens.

The shock is ironic. The US operates Guantanamo, Bagram and various secret prison facilities where detainees are rendered to for interrogations that often involve abuse and torture. The US transformed the Abu Ghraib prison operated by Saddam Hussein into a facility that would become a symbol of US torture and abuse of detainees.

The US has rendered detainees to countries known to commit torture, such as Egypt, or transferred detainees into the custody of forces such as the Iraqi or Afghan police that are known to commit brutality and violence against detainees. The US has had other governments run secret prisons where US agents can come in and interrogate people but not have to take responsibility for the horrors going on in the facility (e.g. Somalia).

With that in mind, it is not shocking that prisons are able to operate where interrogators subject teenagers to anal rape to induce confessions or force juveniles to give them fellatio. The Interior Ministry will not punish the swine who commit such atrocities, therefore, the world can expect to read more accounts of horrific abuse of this nature.