Al Hayat: Secret CIA prison in South Baghdad was run by the CIA until end of 2008

Former Iraqi detainees claimed in daily pan-arabic newspaper Al Hayat that they spent about a month in a secret CIA-run detention facility in Musayib, 40 miles south of Baghdad, which was allegedly open untill the end of 2008. An ex-detainee says he was charged with belonging to the Mahdi Army, a paramilitary force created by Muqtada al-Sadr in June 2003. The interviewees allege they were subject to ‘enhanced interrogation techniques such as sleep deprivation andwaterboarding’ in the facility.

While there is no other (English language) source confirming the claims, claims of secret detentions in Iraq are far from new. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld himself famously acknowledged holding Iraqi ‘terrorist’ suspects incommunicado for periods of more than 7 months. In 2004 Rumsfeld said:

“I was requested by the director of central intelligence (George Tenet) to take custody of an Iraqi national who was believed to be a high-ranking member of Ansar al-Islam,” (which the United States has called a terrorist organization).“And we did so. We were asked to not immediately register the individual (with the Red Cross). And we did that,” Rumsfeld said.

A 2004 paper by the US Department of Defence Joint Chiefs Of Staff titled ‘Applicability of Geneva Conventions to “Ghost Detainees” in Iraq’ shows that the DOD interpreted the “security internee” provisions of the Geneva Conventions to allow for “ghosting” of detainees by prohibiting the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) from visiting. The document was obtained in February this year in a FOIA lawsuit by Amnesty, CCR and NYU.

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  1. Full translation:

    On September 27, the Saudi-owned daily Al-Hayat carried a report by Abd-al-Wahad Tu’mah: “Former detainees released by the US forces have revealed that they spent about a month in a secret detention camp south of Baghdad run by US military intelligence. Their stories were in agreement with those of other detainees that were held in another prison in the region of Balad north of Baghdad about the same time, that is, the end of last year. A former detainee who preferred to be called Abu-Manal, a Shia from south Baghdad described how he was moved to this prison after he was arrested by US troops during a raid on his village last year accused of being a member of Al-Mahdi Army.

    “He said: “At first, the four of us were moved blindfolded and with tied hands to a camp in the area of Al-Udwaniyah or Arab Jubur. We were first put in an empty house that belonged to one of Saddam’s cronies who had fled to Syria. The four of us and some others were cornered in the bathroom of the house. After that, we were taken in armoured vehicles to another camp close by where we stayed for a few hours. We were then separated and put on Humvees that took a road that passed through our village. I managed to find out where we were because the guard in charge of me was busy chatting up his female colleague in another vehicle. I realized that we were heading in the direction of Babil Province south of Baghdad”.

    “Abu-Manal added: “I spent two weeks in a camp run by US troops. This area used to contain Iraqi Television transmitters before April 2003 in an area called Al-Mashru or Mashru al-Musayab (40 kilometres south of Baghdad). My colleagues and I were subjected to harsh rounds of interrogation during which all forms of physical and psychological torture were used against us. They threw us in cells in a very harsh way and in freezing conditions although we were almost naked after they stripped us of all our clothes except for our underpants. We were watched all the time through cameras that were installed in one corner of the cell in order to monitor all our movements.”

    Abu-Manal went on to say: “During all this time, we were deprived of sleep and were forced to squat. Otherwise, severe punishment awaited us. For instance, we were made to believe that we were drowning in freezing water or we were beaten severely.”

    “Abu-Manal described the detention camp as follows: “It was a closed hall divided into three parts. The middle part consisted of the prison administration and the bathrooms. On either side, there were two groups of cells. Each one consisted of five partitions that included five iron cells. In other words, there were 25 cells on side with a total of 50 cells in that hall with one inmate in each cell”. Describing the individual cells, Abu-Manal said: It was like an iron crate measuring less than two cubic meters in length, width, and height with a bed that was 60 centimetres wide fixed to a crossbar and 50 centimetres high from the ground. The cell did not contain any furniture.

    “The inmate would spend his time there without a mattress or a cover and at a temperature of 0 degrees centigrade. The detainee revealed how he knew these details by saying: “Because I could speak English, a kind of flexible relationship developed between me and the interrogating officer. ! He tried to win me over by providing me with certain facilities. For instance, he raised the number of times I could go to the bathroom and he stopped the other guards from harassing me. I used this to lift the blindfold out of curiosity and began to look around the place…”

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