An elite military force answering directly to the Iraqi prime minister held hundreds of Sunni men in a secret Baghdad prison for months, Iraqi officials say. The detainees—arrested without warrants in military sweeps in October—were routinely tortured, officials tells the Los Angeles Times. Human rights officials overcame resistance from military commanders and managed to gain access to the prison last month after following up complaints from family members of the detainees.
Inspectors report that the 431 prisoners lived in horrific conditions, and that many of them were beaten and sodomized. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki ordered the closure of the prison and the prosecution of the commanders involved after being told of the abuses, his ministers say. The existence of the prison, however, is certain to raise sectarian tensions as Maliki's Shia party attempts to form a coalition government, as well as raising fears that the days of authoritarian rule and human rights abuses are far from over in Iraq. (Read more Sunnis stories.)