Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Perspective: Life as a Baghdad 'detainee'

Above: The national police detention center in western Baghdad was supposed to hold up to 300 inmates but nearly 900 are now crammed inside. Under emergency powers, Iraqis can be arrested upon suspicion, and held indefinitely without trial.

A UNIFORMED guard unfastened two padlocks and tugged open a large, wooden door, releasing a rush of hot, sweaty air.

Inside, in a room the size of a high school gymnasium, 505 prisoners stood or sat shoulder to shoulder on cardboard boxes and stained mattress pads. Their few clothes, Korans and other belongings hung from the walls or rafters. Metal ceiling fans barely disturbed the heat.

The stench of human confinement intensified as the guard led the way to the back of the room and down a dark, flooded hallway to the bathroom, where half-naked prisoners stood barefoot amid muddy puddles, broken floor tiles and stopped-up urinals. A shower and sink were filled with human waste.

The guard dropped his cigarette butt in a puddle as prisoners relieved themselves in two holes and rinsed off under a broken water pipe.

Things had improved since the morning, the prisoners said. At least the water was flowing.

Read the rest at the Sydney Morning Herald