Iraqi detainees were repeatedly tortured [press release] in a secret prison in Baghdad, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said Tuesday. HRW says that detainees held at the Muthanna facility, run by Iraqi authorities, were hung upside-down, deprived of air, kicked, whipped, beaten, given electric shocks, and sodomized during torture sessions that detainees faced every three to four days. HRW interviewed 42 men who were among 300 transferred out after the Iraq Ministry of Human Rights gained access to the facility, which falls under the authority of the military office of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki [official website, in Arabic; BBC profile]. The fact that many Sunnis were detained in the facility may reveal growing sectarian tensions within Iraq between the Maliki's Shiite government and Sunni Muslims. Maliki denied [CNN report] the reports of a secret prison, claiming the facility was publicly known and that the reports of abuse are exaggerated.
Earlier this month, it was revealed in a Los Angeles Times report [text] that hundreds of Sunni men were detained without warrant and subjected to torture [JURIST report] in the Muthanna facility. More than 400 men were initially detained in October during sweeps of Nineveh province, an area in which al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) [GlobalSecurity backgrounder] was active, and transferred to a Baghdad prison due to concerns over corruption in the provincial capitol of Mosul. Maliki created a special committee [JURIST report] in June to investigate alleged abuse and torture in the country's prisons. Comprised of eight members, the committee includes representatives from human rights and judicial government agencies and security ministries. The decision to create the panel came shortly after charges were brought [JURIST report] against 43 Iraqi police officers for human rights abuses, warrantless arrests, and bribery allegations. The violations were discovered by an investigatory committee formed by Iraqi Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani [JURIST news archive].