Torture in Iraq: Case No. 1

By

Neji Bennour, a 36-year-old Tunisian, was reception manager at the Baghdad Novotel hotel from January 1982 to the date of his arrest, 2 June 1983. After his arrest he was apparently told, during interrogation, that there were no charges against him but that he had been arrested to give evidence against three of his colleagues at the hotel. In February 1984 AI sent urgent appeals on behalf of Neji Bennour and in March 1984 reiterated its concerns about him to the Iraqi Ministers of Interior and Foreign Affairs, after receiving reports that his health had deteriorated as a result of torture. He was arrested without a warrant, denied access to a lawyer, his family and consular officials.

Return to "The Accuser"

The following details of his arrest and detention are taken from the testimony he gave to AI following his release from prison on 2 April 1984.

A colleague lured him to the hotel car park where armed men, two of whom he knew well, forced him into the boot of a car which was driven at high speed to the headquarters of the Iraqi security forces in Baghdad. Blindfolded, he was made to change into prison uniform, his hands were tied and he was punched, kicked, and violently beaten especially on the face and the ears. He was given a prison number and taken to a cell measuring about 9 x 12 metres, which he shared with over 200 other prisoners. For the 10 months of his detention his diet consisted of lentil soup, rice, tea, bread, with dried white haricot beans once or twice a week. In the whole period he was outside in the fresh air for a total of two hours.

He regularly underwent interrogation when he was pressured to denounce work colleagues and collaborate with the security forces. After the first few days of his detention and refusal to cooperate, Neji Bennour was beaten and violently slapped, which caused a haemorrhage in his right ear. He was tortured during subsequent interrogation sessions until September 1983 when he agreed to sign a paper "confessing" to espionage and rape. On 2 April 1984 he was released.

State of health before arrest

Neji Bennour was very active physically and played football regularly. In 1980, after a fall, he underwent removal of the external meniscus of the left knee. In 1981 he was treated for an amoebic infection, and in February 1982 underwent an appendectomy. His health otherwise had been excellent.

Detention and place of alleged torture

10 months at the headquarters of the security forces in Baghdad.

Duration and time of alleged torture

Neji Bennour was interrogated about 100 times, sometimes 2 or 3 times daily, and also in the middle of the night. He was tortured during each interrogation session for periods of one to three hours.

Medical aid during detention

None.

Types of torture alleged

Neji Bennour was continuously blindfolded and his hands tied. He was given electric shocks in his ears, on his thumbs, his little fingers, his nipples, between his big toes. At the same time he was beaten on the head and legs with a bare cable about 2cm thick. He was repeatedly hit with fists and rubber truncheons and kicked on the face, head, back, hands, legs and feet. He was subjected to 'falaqa' on the soles of his feet, suffered multiple fractures and for six weeks was unable to stand. He received blows to the cervical, dorsal and lumbar vertebrae for prolonged periods with the edge of the hand.

Medical examination

See Appendix A.

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2005/02/torture-in-iraq-case-no-1/303753/