U.S. troops face new torture claims

Iraqi detainees in the northern city of Mosul allege soldiers beat and stripped them, and forced them to listen to loud Western music.

Published September 14, 2004 4:11PM (EDT)

Allegations that American soldiers routinely tortured and maltreated detainees have emerged from a third Iraqi city, renewing fears that abuse similar to that inflicted in Abu Ghraib jail in Baghdad has been systematic and widespread.

American soldiers in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul beat and stripped detainees, threatened sexual abuse and forced them to listen to loud Western music, according to statements seen by the Guardian. Lawyers investigating the claims have sent details to the Pentagon and the British Ministry of Defense and have demanded an inquiry.

Though the abuse of prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison and in Basra has been well documented, this is the first time claims of abuse have been made about the north of the country.

Two statements have been taken from Iraqis detained in Mosul and more are expected. In one, an Iraqi lawyer says he was hooded and stripped naked in a building known as the "disco."

Yasir Rubaii Saeed al-Qutaji describes how loud Western music was played and cold water poured over his body; he says he was also threatened with sexual abuse. "For the next 15 hours they tried to break me down by taking me frequently inside and repeating the stripping, cold water and loud music sequence," he says. "Due to the very loud music," he adds, "they would talk to me via a loudspeaker that was placed next to my ears."

The beatings did not leave a mark on his body because his attackers wore special gloves, he says.

Al-Qutaji says he was a founding member of the Islamic Organization for Human Rights. He claims that other prisoners were treated even worse. "Some were burned with fire; others [had] bandaged broken arms." Advertiser links

In a separate statement, Haitham Saeed al-Mallah, a Mosul-born engineering graduate, says his house was raided by seven American soldiers in January. "I was handcuffed and hooded and was then taken to an unknown place which they call 'the disco,' where they played very loud music as one of their means of torture."

He adds: "They left me standing for hours, handcuffed and hooded, which made me quite disoriented. Then I was kicked very hard on my stomach, which was followed by continuous beating with a stick and with their boots until I fell unconscious. I only woke up after they poured over my head very cold water, which caused me great suffering."

Al-Mallah says he was taken to a room where there was a "group torture." He adds: "I heard nothing but screaming and suffering of detained Iraqis. The usage of cold water along with beating seemed to be a standard procedure. We were then asked to perform exhausting exercises of squatting while they were playing extremely loud (and dirty) music.

"Whoever fell to the ground out of exhaustion would receive painful beating and cold water. We were prevented from going to the toilets despite our pleas, which made many of us soil ourselves."

He says detainees were allowed to sleep for about two hours, after which the cycle of torture continued.

"The new thing this time was ordering us to shout, 'Long live the United States.' We were also made to shout obscenities (sentences that had the word 'fuck' in them)."

Al-Mallah says the next day, he saw "a young man of 14 years of age bleeding from his anus and lying on the floor. "He was Kurdish and his name was Hama. I heard the soldiers talking to each other about this guy. They mentioned that the reason for this bleeding was inserting a metal object in his anus."

Al-Qutaji, who was detained in March, says he and other Iraqi lawyers have been unable to stop abuses because U.S. forces have been given immunity from prosecution. He says Paul Bremer, former head of the Coalition Provisional Authority, dismissed 120 of Iraq's senior judges, 45 of them in Mosul, on the grounds that they were supporters of Saddam Hussein's regime.

Phil Shiner, of the Birmingham-based law firm Public Interest Lawyers, is trying to get the cases raised in the British courts. He is working with American lawyers to get them raised there. "The British public needs to know the full implications of the decision to get into this war," he said.

A U.S. Army spokesman in Baghdad said yesterday that he was surprised by the allegations, which would be investigated.

The Ministry of Defense in London said it had not yet been made aware of the allegations.

By Richard Norton-Taylor

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