Saddam Hussein's 'Secret Torture Chamber in New York'
Two unnamed Iraqi officials told the New York Post that when Saddam Hussein rose to power in 1979, he had a secret torture room installed in the basement of the Iraqi Mission to the United Nations in New York -- a five-storey building at 14 East 79th Street.
The basement was split into three main rooms: an office, a communication centre and the detention facility, secured by a giant metal door with heavy steel bars across it. The skylight in the roof of the townhouse was also blacked out so the US Air Force and satellites could not see anything, they said.
The permanent mission of the republic of Iraq to the United Nations in New York CREDIT: GOOGLE STREET VIEW
“It was a dark room. The doors were reinforced in a way that nobody could break in or out. You didn’t need to soundproof it,” one official said. The other official added: “You’re not going to hear someone screaming down there.”
Torture tactics employed by the Mukhabarat (Iraqi Intelligence Service) included pulling out prisoners’ nails and beating them to a pulp, the officials claimed.
A lack of cooperation could mean being executed and shipped back to Baghdad in diplomatic, Customs-exempt boxes, the report stated. "This is diplomatic – nobody has the authority to examine it or open it," one official explained.
The mission, located close to the home of the city's former mayor Michael Bloomberg, was raided in 2003 following Saddam's fall from power in Iraq by federal investigators.
The detention room was similar to others in Iraqi embassies around the world, including Eastern Europe and Arab countries, where evidence of torture was uncovered, the officials told the Post.
In 2014, the subterranean space was converted into a kitchenette during a full renovation of the mission costing approximately $120,000 (£100,000), the Post reported.
During his presidency (1979-2003) Saddam routinely jailed, tortured and executed anyone suspected of dissent.
While the true scale of the killings can't be truly calculated, according to Amnesty International, a "prison cleansing" campaign claimed 3,000 lives in 1997 alone. Some 300,000 Iraqis are thought to have disappeared during his rule.
The feared dictator was executed in 2006 after being being found guilty of crimes against humanity.