Report: Saddam Hussein Kept a Secret Torture Chamber on the Upper East Side

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Saddam Hussein routinely installed detention rooms in his embassies.Photo: Barry Iverson/The LIFE Images Collection/Getty Images

Iraqi officials claim that the dead, deposed Iraqi despot Saddam Hussein kept a torture chamber in the basement of the Iraqi mission at 14 East 79th Street.

If the rumors are true, there was an Iraqi torture dungeon operating for years in one of the city’s toniest neighborhoods, near Central Park and directly across the street from the home of billionaire and former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Two Iraqi officials disclosed the existence of what they called a “detention room” to the New York Post on the condition of anonymity. They say that the torture dungeon was frequently in use, with Hussein’s menacing Mukhabarat agents keeping New York–based Iraqis locked in the basement for more than two weeks at a time, most often using their imprisonment as a way to compel their families to return to Iraq.

The sources described the chamber as a dark room with reinforced doors, but claimed that there was no need to soundproof it because, chillingly, “You’re not going to hear someone screaming down there.”

They described how Hussein’s goons would “lay in wait like a snake for the relative to arrive for some ex-pat business and then grab him and lock him into the room.”

While inside, prisoners would be tortured with wire, rubber hosing, and wooden boards, would have their fingernails removed, or would just be severely beaten.

There are even reports that if people died in the detention rooms, Hussein would have their bodies sent back to Iraq in diplomatic shipments, which U.S. customs are legally prohibited from opening.

“If my own finger betrayed me,” said one of the Post’s sources, quoting Hussein, “then I would have it removed or cut off.”

Detention rooms like the one in New York were apparently common features in Iraqi embassies and missions all over the world.

And no, you can’t visit it. In 2014, during a spirited round of renovation, Saddam Hussein’s torture dungeon was converted into a kitchenette.