A Tour of Abu Ghraib
Inside the 100-yard long cell block the smell of excrement was overpowering. Four to six prisoners shared each of the 12ft by 15ft cells along either side and the walls were smeared with filth. The cell block was patrolled by guards who carried long batons and shouted angrily at the prisoners to stand up. Access to the part of the prison containing terrorism suspects was denied, but from that block came the sound of screaming. The screaming continued for a long time.
Prisoners interviewed in the presence of their jailers said they were frightened for their safety. They complained that chicken and milk had been cut from their rations, leaving them on rice and water. They also complained about the oppressive heat. Outside the prison, relatives of some of the inmates said they were being tortured by their captors. One woman, who gave her name as Omsaad, said: "My son Saad [who was arrested in Fallujah as a suspected insurgent] said he is being tortured to confess the name of his leader. I met my son and he told me they were being treated badly.
Abu Ghraib became synonymous with abuse after shocking pictures were published in 2004 showing prisoners being tortured and humiliated, galvanising opposition to the US presence in Iraq. This tour occured just days after the Americans formally handed over control to the Iraqi authorities on Sept 1.
Some of the small number of prisoners who remained in the jail after the Americans left said they had pleaded to go with their departing captors, rather than be left in the hands of Iraqi guards. "The Americans were better than the Iraqis. They treated us better," said Khalid Alaani, who was held on suspicion of involvement in Sunni terrorism.
What was old is new again.