July 09, 2006

Hell on Earth

BAGHDAD — Brutality and corruption are rampant in Iraq's police force, with abuses including the rape of female prisoners, the release of terrorism suspects in exchange for bribes, assassinations of police officers and participation in insurgent bombings, according to confidential Iraqi government documents detailing more than 400 police corruption investigations.

A recent assessment by State Department police training contractors echoes the investigative documents, concluding that strong paramilitary and insurgent influences within the force and endemic corruption have undermined public confidence in the government.

Officers also have beaten prisoners to death, been involved in kidnapping rings, sold thousands of stolen and forged Iraqi passports and passed along vital information to insurgents, the Iraqi documents allege.

The documents, which cover part of 2005 and 2006, were obtained by The Times and authenticated by current and former police officials.

The alleged offenses span dozens of police units and hundreds of officers, including beat cops, generals and police chiefs. Officers were punished in some instances, but the vast majority of cases are either under investigation or were dropped because of lack of evidence or witness testimony.


Police officers' loyalties appear to be a major problem, with dozens of accounts of insurgent infiltration and terrorist acts committed by ministry officials.

In one case, a ring of Baghdad police officers — including a colonel, two lieutenants and a captain — were accused of stealing communications equipment for insurgents, who used the electronics for remote bomb triggers. In another case, a medic with the Interior Ministry's elite commando force in Baghdad was fired after he was accused of planting improvised explosives and conducting assassinations.


Abuse by police is also a common theme. The victims include citizens who tried to complain about police misbehavior, drivers who disobeyed traffic police commands and, in several cases, other police officers.

But detainees appear to be targeted most often. The U.S. military has been working with the Iraqi government to standardize detention facilities and policies, and the U.S. assessment claims that several site visits turned up no serious human rights abuses. But the ministry documents reveal a brutal detention system in which officers run hidden jails, and torture and detainee deaths are common.

The documents mention four investigations into the deaths of 15 prisoners at the hands police commando units.

In the Rusafa section of Baghdad, a predominantly Shiite area known for its strong militia presence, police tortured detainees with electricity, beatings and, in at least one case, rape, according to the internal documents. Relief was reserved for those detainees whose relatives could afford to bribe detention officers to release them.

The Wolf Brigade, a notorious commando unit, illegally detained more than 650 prisoners, according to the documents. During a mass release of Wolf Brigade prisoners last November, a Times reporter saw dozens of malnourished men among the released detainees; several were so weak that they could not walk without assistance.

Female detainees are often sexually assaulted. According to the documents, the commander of a detention center in the Karkh neighborhood of the capital raped a woman who was an alleged insurgent in August. That same month, two lieutenants tortured and raped two other female detainees.
Gunmen in the Iraqi capital Baghdad have killed at least 40 people at a fake police checkpoint, in an apparent sectarian attack against Sunni Muslims.

Police say Shia militants stopped cars in the western Jihad district, separated Sunnis and shot them.

Later, at least 17 people died when two car bombs exploded near a Shia mosque in the capital, police said.

There has been an upsurge in sectarian violence in Iraq in recent months, raising fears of a civil war.
"Raising fears of a civil war..." So the denial goes on: if we don't call it a civil war now, then it isn't one. That doesn't work so well for people who are killed or maimed for life, or for all the Iraqis who live in terror every single day.

There is no "good solution" to this hell we have unleashed.

Get Out Now: Just Do It.