[JURIST] Iraq's Interior Ministry announced Tuesday that 57 members of its Shiite-led police force have been charged with torturing hundreds of detainees at a prison in eastern Baghdad. This is the first time the Iraqi government has filed charges against members of the police amidst ongoing accusations [JURIST report] of corruption and human rights violations. Besides the police torture chamber discovered in Baghdad last year and the complicity of police in a mass kidnapping of Sunni workers, investigators also discovered the bodies of apparent death squad victims that were killed in reaction to the bombing of a Shiite shrine in February. Police are suspected of aiding and abetting the murders by allowing death squad members to pass through checkpoints and violate curfews.
The police force has long been accused of being dominated by Shiite militias responsible for the slayings of Sunni Arabs. Last month, the Interior Ministry announced [AP report] that 3,000 members of its police force had been fired [JURIST report] since May, top commanders have been reshuffled, and up to 600 department employees will face prosecution. In February US military officials vowed to improve Iraqi police forces [JURIST report] and in March US Army Lieutenant General Martin Dempsey [official profile], head of the Multi-National Security Transition Command in Iraq [official website], declared 2006 would be "the year of the police" [US Department of State press release], promising a renewed effort to instill professionalism in the force. Iraqi authorities plan to retrain all 26 police battalions in hopes that they can identify members of the police who are in sectarian militias and criminal gangs. AP has more.