Iraqi detainees tell of torture

By Caroline Hawley

Prisoners at an Iraqi detention centre opened up to journalists have told the BBC of widespread abuse.

One man said he had been whipped with a cable and then had salt rubbed in the wound, while another said his captors had tried to pull out his toenails.

The BBC was also shown inside a Baghdad bunker at the centre of a scandal over detainee abuse by Iraqi forces.

More than 170 prisoners were found there last week, showing signs of malnourishment and torture.

A government-ordered inquiry is under way and Interior Minister Bayan Jabr has said torture will not be tolerated.

But he has also brushed aside reports of abuse, saying they have been exaggerated.

There are calls for an independent inquiry from Iraqis who do not trust the government to investigate itself. There have been no findings yet.

The UN has expressed concern over the number of Iraqi detainees being held and the government faces growing international pressure over their treatment.

The prisoners have now been moved from the interior ministry bunker in Baghdad, as have any traces of what they went through.

Many raised their hands when asked if they had been tortured

But the smell of overcrowding still hung in the air in some of the four rooms shown to journalists.

The general in charge admitted that some of the detainees had had skin rashes and diarrhoea.

He acknowledged that one of them was paralysed, although he said that had happened before the prisoner arrived at the bunker.

At the other detention centre, one prisoner said he had had electric shocks to his genitals.

When we asked who else had been tortured, there was a big show of hands.

Even in a facility opened up to journalists, it was so crowded there was barely room for all the prisoners to sit, let alone lie down.