Prisoners have been beaten with cables and hosepipes, and suffered electric shocks to their earlobes and genitals, the US-based group Human Rights Watch said.

Some have been starved of food and water and crammed into standing-room only cells.

“The people of Iraq were promised something better than this after the government of Saddam Hussein fell,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director of the group’s Middle East and North Africa division.

“The Iraqi interim government is not keeping its promises to honour and respect basic human rights. Sadly, the Iraqi people continue to suffer from a government that acts with impunity in its treatment of detainees.”

Human Rights Watch said it interviewed 90 Iraqi prisoners between July and October last year, just after the government of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi assumed power from the US-led forces which toppled Saddam.

Seventy-two said they had been tortured or mistreated.

“Detainees report kicking, slapping and punching, prolonged suspension from the wrists with the hands tied behind the back, electric shocks to sensitive parts of the body … and being kept blindfolded and/or handcuffed continuously for several days,” the group said in a report.

“In several cases, the detainees suffered what may be permanent physical disability.”

The report also said Iraq’s intelligence service had violated the rights of political opponents.

It highlighted the systematic use of arbitrary arrest, pre-trial detention of up to four months, improper treatment of child detainees and abysmal conditions in pre-trial facilities.

While the Human Rights Watch report looked solely at Iraqi institutions and did not address torture of prisoners by US soldiers, it said international police advisers, mostly Americans, had turned a blind eye to Iraqi abuse.

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