Different Times

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Saddam Hussein reacts to his being photographed in jail by suing the Sun, the British newspaper running the pictures. He complains his privacy has been violated. Lawyers are already arguing about the strength of the case.

Conditions in Iraqi jails have certainly improved since Saddam was in charge of the criminal justice system rather than being the most notorious prisoner.

Here’s a reminder of the days when access to lawyers was a little less easy for inmates. It’s an account of Rafat Abdulmajeed Muhammad’s time inside Abu Ghraib during the 1990’s:

He spent the next three years in solitary confinement. He was taken out of his cell twice a week for beatings. He said that in the prison basement were deep pits, each a metre wide. Up to ten prisoners deemed guilty of disciplinary offences would be dropped into these pits and kept there for a week at a time. “Many died in those pits,” he said.

Last summer Mr Muhammad had the top joint of the second finger of his left hand smashed off with an iron bar for insulting Saddam, an offence for which five years were added to his sentence.

On October 20 last year, 400 prisoners were taken out before dawn and marched to a field inside the Abu Greeb complex, where they were shot.

“In a way it was good news for us,” Mr Muhammad said. “Though executions happened the whole time, usually mass killings preceeded an amnesty. It was a way the authorities had of culling the prison population. So that morning, after the shooting, we hoped some of us may be freed.”