About six months after the invasion of Iraq rumors of Iraq prison abuse scandals started to emerge.
The best known abuse incidents occurred at the large Abu Ghraib prison. Graphic pictures of some of those abuse incidents were made public. Less well-known abuse incidents have been documented at American prisons throughout Iraq.
|Abu Ghraib prison|| |
A photograph leaked after the initial set shows Spc. Sabrina Harman smiling and giving a thumbs up next to the body of Manadel al-Jamadi. Jamadi was reportedly beaten to death during interrogations in the prison's showers. Death certificates repeatedly stated that prisoners had died "while sleeping", and of "natural reasons". Iraqi doctors are not allowed to investigate the deaths of prisoners, even if death certificates are allegedly forged. No investigations against US military doctors who are alleged to have forged death certificates have been reported.
Honorably discharged US veteran, Sergeant Frank "Greg" Ford reports that he witnessed war crimes in Samarra, Iraq.
Ather Karen al-Mowafakia died in Basra, while in British custody. Details about the investigation are not known.
Gary Bartlam, a British soldier of the Desert Rats, was arrested after submitting film to a photo developers shop in Tamworth, England while on leave. The photographs depict a gagged Iraqi POW suspended hanging by rope from a fork lift, and other pictures seem to show prisoners being forced to perform sexual acts. Bartlam and two other soldiers were convicted at court martial of abuse - a fourth soldier was cleared.
British Lieutenant Colonel Tim Collins was alleged by US Army Major Re Biastre to have been responsible for mistreatment of Iraqi civilians and prisoners of war. Lieutenant Colonel Collins was later cleared of any wrongdoing by an MOD investigation.
Brigadier General Ennis Whitehead III reported that Master Sergeant Lisa Marie Girman, a state trooper, "repeatedly kick[ed a prisoner] in the groin, abdomen and head, and encouraging her subordinate soldiers to do the same,"
Lieutenant colonel Vic Harris reported that Staff Sergeant Scott A. McKenzie who worked at a Pennsylvania Department of Corrections boot-camp-style prison, and Specialist Timothy F. Canjar: held prisoners' legs, encouraged others to then kick them in the groin, stepped on their previously injured arms, and made false sworn statements to the USA Army Criminal Investigation Division.
They received "general, under honorable conditions" discharges, were ordered to forfeit 2 months' salary, and returned to the USA.
Said Shabram died in custody, but no information of the investigation were made public.
The abuses at Abu Ghraib prison were reportedly committed by MPs. There are allegations that private contractors contributed to them as well and that intelligence agencies such as the CIA ordered them to do so in order to break prisoners for interrogations. It is said to be a usual practice in other US prisons as well, such as in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.
The International Committee of the Red Cross submitted a detailed report to the U.S. Army in October 2003 about abuses in prisons, and the president of the Red Cross stated he had informed high-ranking members of the Bush administration about the abuses during a meeting in the White House in January 2004. A soldier came forward that month with photos of abuse that he found disturbing, some showed the stacking of prisoners into a human pyramid, with one prisoner's skin visibly bearing a slur written in English. Another showed a prisoner being forced to stand on a box with wires attached to his head and hands, who had reportedly been told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted. Photos released to the public later included a person being attacked by a guard dog, which the soldier involved described as being useful for intimidation of prisoners. It was also reported that an Iraqi hired as a translator raped a juvenile male prisoner while a female soldier took pictures. No charges have been brought against the contractor because he does not fall under military jurisdiction; it is questionable whether any charges will or even can be brought against him.
Donald Rumsfeld had said that army and government had only been informed in January and not in detail. On January 16, 2004, a press release was issued by the United States Central Command (CENTCOM) stating that an investigation had been initiated in response to allegations of detainee abuse at an unspecified detention facility (now known to be Abu Ghraib prison).
In March 2004, 6 soldiers in Abu Ghraib were charged with dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, and sexual abuse. 17 others were suspended from duty, including the seven U.S. officers who ran the prison. Also recommended for discipline was Brig. Gen Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th brigade. The Red Cross, which had access to these prisons, has stated that the instances of torture were not aberrations but were systemic. Some officers have attempted to defend themselves by saying that they were only doing their duty.
In response to ongoing complaints, the US military initiated a program to reform the internment and treatment systems. The reforms are expected to increase safeguards for prisoners' rights, to ensure each prisoner receives a copy of their internment order, and has their charges explained to them within 72 hours. They additionally plan to publicly post information about detainees so that family members can know what happened to their loved ones. Reforms were made in March 2004.
Theft of prisoner's possessions by soldiers, dirty, cramped quarters and bad food, prisoners forced into uncomfortable positions for prolonged periods of time, extreme exposure to the elements, and excessive jailings of people based on the paid testimony of individual informants were reported. 55-year old cafe owner Mahmoud Khodair, who was arrested and held for six months before being released in early march without ever knowing what he was charged with, stated, "It was just like hell", and "Nothing has changed since Saddam. Before, the Mukhabarat [secret police] would take us away, and at least they wouldn't blow down the door. Now, some informant fingers you and gets $100 even if you're innocent.
During April 2004 the media started to report on the abuse. The journalist Seymour Hersh (who was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his disclosure of the Vietnam War tragedy at the hamlet of My Lai) published a series of articles in The New Yorker with photo coverage of U.S. soldiers abusing prisoners in the Abu Ghraib prison on 2004-04-30.
In an interview with Dan Rather, the deputy director of operations for the US-led coalition, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt, stated "We're appalled. These are our fellow soldiers. These are the people we work with every day. They represent us. They wear the same uniform as us, and they let their fellow soldiers down. If we can't hold ourselves up as an example of how to treat people with dignity and respect, we can't ask that other nations do that to our soldiers."
Furthering the charges, excerpts from the Abu Ghraib Taguba report were published on May 3, 2004. The report documented: the sodomizing of a prisoner with a chemical light, pouring phosphoric liquid on detainees, rape of a female prisoner, forced masturbation, "ghost detainees" moved around to avoid the Red Cross, and many other abuses.
On May 14, 2004, reporters for the Guardian documented a coercive technique which soldiers called "bitch in a box". The prisoner was shoved into the trunk of a car on a hot day, and driven around until the prisoner was near ready to pass out. Another technique documented was "waterboarding", which involves holding a prisoner underwater until the prisoner believed he was about to drown. They also interviewed many soldiers not involved in the current scandal, who claimed that they were taught to use sleep deprivation, to stage mock executions, and to use other procedures. One platoon leader who objected to these practices was reportedly told that his stand could end his military career.
USA Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told an armed services committee of the Senate on 2004-05-07 that "There are a lot more photographs and videos that exist [...] I looked at them last night and they're hard to believe [...] The pictures I've seen depict conduct, behaviour that is so brutal and so cruel and so inhumane that anyone engaged in it or involved in it would have to be brought to justice." He also said that the abused detainees may be offered compensation.
In a scene described as "surreal" by AFP, it was found in mid May, 2004 that US troops were handing out cash to freed prisoners along with a note stating "You have not been mistreated.". A reporter visiting the prison Camp War Horse described the tour:
Sadiq Zoman , 57, is delivered in a vegetative state, to a hospital in Tikrit. His body bearing telltale signs of torture: burn marks on his skin, bludgeon marks on the back of his head, a badly broken thumb, electrical burns on the soles of his feet. Additionally, family members say they found whipmarks across his back and more electrical burns on his genitalia. He had entered US custody healthy barely 1 month earlier.
Hassan Abbad Said died in custody, but no information of the investigation were made public.
The authenticity of the photographs was called into question a day later. In particular, a number of specifics in the images, such as the type of rifles the soldiers in the pictures are carrying and the type of truck pictured did not match the equipment used by UK troops in Iraq. The Mirror responded to these criticisms of the photographs on May 3, 2004.
On May 14, 2004, the Daily Mirror reported that the pictures it had published, allegedly showing UK troops abusing an Iraqi prisoner, were fake and that "the Daily Mirror has been the subject of a calculated and malicious hoax. The Daily Mirror editor, Piers Morgan, was sacked due to the controversy.
June 29: Oregon national guardsmen intervene in the beating of bound prisoners on the grounds of the Iraqi Interior Ministry; are told to back off and let the newly "sovereign" Iraqis run their own affairs.
Several torture cases were also reported, notably torture by electricity, beatings, and sprayings of prisoners with fire extinguishers.
On 21 December, the ACLU released further documents documenting tortures. Notably, in a case of shooting of suspects without warning, Army commanders are reported to have interfered with the investigation. Procedures of autopsy of detainees who died in unclear circumstances have been canceled by battalion and group commands. Other cases include
Human Rights Watch accused Iraqi security forces of using torture and improper treatments on prisoners. Arbitrary arrests and long periods of isolation are now common. Human Right Watch interviewed 90 prisoners, among which 72 said they had been tortured during interrogation. Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW director, said that the Iraqi provisional government was not holding to its promise to stand by Human Rights: "A new Iraqi government requires more than a change of leadership - it requires a change of attitude about basic human dignity" .
"During the first three days there was continuous torture. I was beaten with an aluminum rod and with cables. ? Then I was told to sign a statement with my hands tied behind my back, so I didn't even see the paper and I don't know what I signed."Among bad treatments were such elements as beatings with cables, electric shocks, including on genitals, being tied and blindfolded for days, cells so crowded that it is only possible to stand, arbitrary detention, refusal of trials, access to lawyers or contacts with families. These treatments were inflicted to insurgents and criminals alike.
The Haditha killings occurred on November 19 in the town of Haditha, Iraq. A convoy of United States Marines was attacked with an improvised explosive device which killed Lance Corporal Miguel Terrazas. Up to twenty-four Iraqis were subsequently killed; it is alleged that they were non-combatant local residents who were massacred by Marines in the aftermath of the insurgent attack.
Video of the killing of four Russian diplomats kidnapped in Iraq appear on the Internet. A group called the Mujahideen Shura Council released the hostage video.
Seymour Hersh, who exposed the Abu Ghraib scandal, and reports in Newsweek, has taken the case even further. In 2003, Donald Rumsfeld instituted a policy that "encouraged physical coercion and sexual humiliation of Iraqi prisoners in an effort to generate more intelligence about the growing insurgency in Iraq.". This policy stemmed from an earlier policy taken toward al-Qaeda prisoners. A memo to the Bush White House from counsel Alberto Gonzales claimed that the new sort of war renders the Geneva Conventions' limitations on interrogating enemy prisoners "obsolete". The program was approved by the CIA, NSA, and the National Security Council. President George W. Bush was informed of it. The undersecretary of Defense for intelligence Steven Cambone administered the operation. His deputy, William Boykin, instructed the head of operations at Camp X-ray Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to do the same at Abu Ghraib. Miller told Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski that the prison would now be dedicated to gathering intelligence. Douglas Feith and William Haynes were also involved in the operation.
On May 18, 2004, a military intelligence analyst named Samuel Provance came out to the press, stating "There's definitely a cover-up". Provance, who ran a computer network used by military intelligence in the prison and who had been ordered not to speak to the press, told ABC News "Anything [the MPs] were to do legally or otherwise, they were to take those commands from the interrogators," and that the sexual humiliation began as a technique ordered by the investigators. He described several of the goings-on in the prison that he witnessed, such as the punching people in the neck hard enough to knock them unconscious after assuring them they weren't going to be hit, in order to catch them off guard. He also stated that Maj. Gen. George Fay, the Army's deputy chief of staff for intelligence, has shown little interest in investigating the interrogators and has gone only after the MPs, and that there is a culture of silence right now among those involved, who fear that if they say anything, the investigations will turn to them.
On May 19, 2004, a court martial hearing was held for Cpl. Charles A. Graner Jr., who has been accused of being the ringleader of the group employing torture at Abu Ghraib. In an unexpected move, all three key witnesses - Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan, Capt. Donald J. Reese, and contractor Adel L. Nakhla - refused to testify. This is an almost unheard of action. Under court martial proceedings, one cannot refuse to testify unless they have a belief that they will be exposed to criminal charges for doing so. Consequently, it is likely that the investigative proceedings will be forced to move higher up the chain of command.