Human Rights Watch implicates 600+ in war prisoner abuse

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Sunday, May 7, 2006

A human rights project, The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project (DAA), released a report in Washington saying that allegations of detainee abuse, torture and killings have now implicated at least 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, as well as the prison for terrorist suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The project is a cooperation between New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First.

The human rights groups say they analyzed thousands of pages of government documents and conducted interviews with witnesses and prisoners who say they were abused by U.S. troops.

"Over 95 percent of those implicated were military personnel," said Hina Shamsi, a senior counsel for the group Human Rights First. "The remainder were from the CIA or other intelligence agencies or were civilian contractors working either for the military or the CIA The cases involve over 1,000 acts of abuse, including homicide, assault, cruelty, maltreatment, maiming and sexual abuse."

"We found that abuses were pervasive, extending far beyond Abu Ghraib and that investigations have been incomplete and delayed, which has left a general failure of accountability," she said.

In the two years since the Abu Ghraib scandal surfaced, the human rights groups say 40 people have been sentenced to serve time in prison. Of those, 10 have been sentenced to a year or more in detention.

Lieutenant Commander Jeffrey Gordon, a press officer at the Department of Defense, told VOA the allegations outlined by the human rights groups "are false."

Commander Gordon says the military has conducted more than 600 criminal investigations resulting in charges against 251 soldiers who faced courts-martial, the military's equivalent of criminal trials, or administrative punishment.

Commander Gordon says all allegations of abuse are taken seriously, people were held accountable, and the military's system of justice does work.

The information from the human rights groups comes at same time as the news that a U.S. Army lieutenant colonel is expected to be charged in connection with the abuse of detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

"Two years ago, U.S. officials said the abuses at Abu Ghraib were aberrations and that people who abused detainees would be brought to justice," said the faculty director of the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice at NYU Law School, Professor Meg Satterthwaite. "Yet our research shows that detainee abuses were widespread, and few people have truly been brought to justice."

A detainee in outdoor solitary confinement cell talks with a military policeman at Abu Ghraib prison on outskirts of Baghdad (file photo - June 22, 2004) Two years after the Abu Ghraib scandal caused a worldwide uproar, reports say Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan will become the highest-ranking officer to be charged in the case.

Colonel Jordan's attorney says he expects his client will be charged within the next few days on several counts, including dereliction of duty, conduct unbecoming an officer and lying to investigators.

The colonel led the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Center at Abu Ghraib between September and December 2003.

Military investigations determined that Colonel Jordan, who was trained as a civil affairs officer, had no experience with interrogating prisoners and failed to properly supervise soldiers under his command.

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The Report from The Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project