Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa Al Kadhimi ordered disciplinary action against the chief of a security force whose members were caught taunting a teenager whose chest was covered in bruises in an online video.
The video showed three members of the Interior Ministry’s Law Preservation Forces, which was set up to handle protests, standing around a boy in his underwear on a chair.
They cursed his mother and threatened the teenager with sexual assault as one of them cut the boy's hair with a blade.
Local media said the teenager was one of dozens of civilians detained for joining anti-government protests.
Another video showed the youth receiving treatment at a makeshift clinic typical of those set up by demonstrators who have been on the streets since October, demanding political change.
“One of them grabbed me by the throat and took me,” the youth said.
The Law Preservation Forces were formed by former prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi as the Iraqi uprising broke out in October last year.
It is made up of officers from the Interior Ministry’s Rapid Response units and other agencies.
The videos were shared in recent days, but the Iraqi Interior Ministry said on Sunday that the assault took place in April and that work was being done to arrest the officers involved.
Mr Al Kadhimi on Sunday ordered the commander of the Law Preservation Forces, Gen Saad Khalaf, to be confined to his headquarters and the force to be “re-examined as a formation”, state media said.
Since the protests against unemployment, lack of basic services and corruption began in Iraq, more than 500 demonstrators have been killed by security forces or Iran-backed, government-sanctioned militias.
Dozens of other activists, leading figures and those taking part in demonstrations have been kidnapped or have disappeared.
Last month, security analyst and government adviser Husham Al Hashimi was murdered outside his home after receiving death threats from Iran-backed militias.
The teen-abuse videos were used as evidence of the torture that human rights campaigners said was regularly handed out with impunity by Iraq’s security services.
Mr Al Kadhimi, a reformer who took office in May, has promised change and accountability to try to ease anger on the streets.
He has promised to investigate the killings and abuses of demonstrators.
But analysts worry that the former intelligence agency head, who has no support base of his own, will be unable to significantly curtail the powerful armed militias.