Rights Group Reports Abuses In Secret Iraq Prisons
MELISSA BLOCK, Host:
Samer Muscati is a researcher with Human Rights Watch, which interviewed dozens of the detainees. He joins us from Baghdad. And can you describe, please, the extent and nature of the abuse that you were told about?
SAMER MUSCATI: And we also examined the physical evidence and the welts and scars on their bodies, which appeared fresh. And it was surprising to see how consistent the scars were across, you know, the 300 detainees who were there. Almost - each one of them had severe bruising or scarring on the shin area where they were suspended from when they endured these types of beatings. But it was shocking to see what we saw there.
BLOCK: You also apparently heard numerous accounts of rape and sodomy in this prison.
MUSCATI: But it seems that the younger men - and actually there were minors there, as well - were subjected to rape while the older men were sodomized using various implements and molested in other ways.
BLOCK: Who specifically was in charge of this secret prison at the old Muthanna airport in Baghdad? Who was carrying out these atrocities that you heard about?
MUSCATI: From what we understand, the prime minister's military office was in charge of this facility. And it's, I mean, it seems that what happened reaches the highest levels of government. So the responsibility doesn't just lie with the torturers, it lies with all those up the chain of command. And hopefully there will be an inquiry to examine what happened at this facility and who exactly is responsible for what happened.
BLOCK: Well, let's talk about the response from the government, specifically from Prime Minister Maliki. He has said there are no secret prisons in Iraq at all. He calls this lies, a smear campaign by foreign media and his political rivals. The New York Times says he went so far as to cite the abuses at Abu Ghraib and said the American government took measures. We are doing the same. So where is the problem and why this raucousness?
MUSCATI: But I think they really need to interview these detainees if they don't believe Human Rights Watch, as well as the Ministry of Human Rights and others who have observed this behavior.
BLOCK: And where are these detainees now? Has the torture stopped?
MUSCATI: So there is evidence within the system showing these marks and these wounds, and I hope that people in the government will get access to them and form their own conclusions, which I mean, will definitely conclude what we've concluded.
BLOCK: Samer Muscati is a researcher with Human Rights Watch. He joined us from Baghdad. Mr. Muscati, thanks very much.
MUSCATI: Thank you so much for having me.
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