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Torture, rendition, and other abuses against captives in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere

 
  

Project: Prisoner abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere

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1998

       Walter Schumm, a retired Army Reserve colonel, writes a piece in the Military Review making the observation that few military officers understand the legal requirements for handling prisoners. In one part of the essay he notes, “It only takes one improperly trained soldier among a thousand to commit an offense against the Geneva Conventions that would cause our nation considerable embarrassment.” [USA Today, 5/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Walter Schumm
          

End of 2002

       A team of FBI investigators headed by the FBI's assistant director for counterterrorism, Thomas J. Harrington, visits Guantanamo. As he will later report to Maj. Gen. Donald J. Ryder, the Army's provost marshal general, in a letter dated July 14, 2004 (see July 14, 2004), he and his team witness at least three cases of “highly aggressive interrogation techniques being used against detainees.” Abuse includes the use of a dog to intimidate a prisoner (who later shows symptoms of “extreme” psychological trauma); binding most of a detainee's head in duct tape because he continued quoting from the Koran; and a female interrogator who bent back the thumbs of a prisoner and then grabbed his genitals. In one case, a prisoner was “curling into a fetal position on the floor and crying in pain.” [Financial Times, 12/7/2004] Torin Nelson, an interrogator stationed at Guantanamo from August 2002 to February 2003, similarly notices an increase in the aggressiveness of interrogation methods in the weeks before he leaves. “When I first got there, things were much more above board. But there was a lot of pressure coming from above in the administration,” he later recalls. “They were very keen on getting results from the interrogations.” It is at this point that, according to him, techniques begin to enter “the grey area of abuse.” [The Guardian, 12/1/2004] Criticism, vented within the FBI by a few of the federal agents who have been questioning prisoners at Guantanamo, also begins to arrive at the Pentagon. A senior intelligence official tells reporter Hersh: “I was told that the military guards were slapping prisoners, stripping them, pouring cold water over them, and making them stand until they got hypothermia. The agents were outraged. It was wrong and also dysfunctional.” The agents' written complaints are sent to officials at the Pentagon, including Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes. [The Guardian, 9/13/2004] “In late 2002 and continuing into mid-2003,” according to a report by the FBI, “the [FBI's] Behavioral Analysis Unit raised concerns over interrogation tactics being employed by the US Military” at Guantanamo. [Sources: FBI transcripts of interrogations]
People and organizations involved: Torin Nelson, Thomas J. Harrington, William J. Haynes, Donald J. Ryder
          

March 11, 2002

       The Washington Post reveals that the US government has secretly transported “dozens of people” suspected of links to terrorists to foreign countries with poor human rights records “where they can be subjected to interrogation tactics—including torture and threats to families—that are illegal in the United States.” The program is known as “rendition” (see 1993-2004) (see After September 11, 2001). [Washington Post, 3/11/2002]
          

March 11, 2002

       Human Rights Watch writes to President Bush about allegations of renditions and torture reported in the Washington Post (see March 11, 2002), asking that the allegations be investigated immediately. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; Washington Post, 3/11/2002]
People and organizations involved: Human Rights Watch
          

September/October 2002

       A CIA analyst visits Guantanamo and returns convinced that war crimes are being committed there. According to a former White House official, the analyst concludes that “if we captured some people who weren't terrorists when we got them, they are now.” The CIA agent estimates at least more than half of the prisoners at Guantanamo do not belong there. [The Guardian, 9/13/2004] John A. Gordon, Deputy National Security Adviser for combating terrorism, a former deputy director of the CIA and a retired four-star general, reads the highly critical report on Guantanamo by the CIA analyst in the early autumn of 2002. The analyst's account of US activities at Guantanamo, he says, is “totally out of character with the American value system.” He says he also believes “that if the actions at Guantanamo ever became public, it'd be damaging to the president.” He is convinced the report is important material. “We got it up to Condi [Condoleezza Rice],” he recalls. Gordon is most concerned about whether many of the prisoners at Guantanamo are not in fact innocent. “It was about how many more people are being held there that shouldn't be,” a former White House official tells Seymour Hersh. “Have we really got the right people?” The briefing for Rice does not center on the treatment of the prisoners, but on questions of practicality: “Are we getting any intelligence? What is the process for sorting these people?” The concerns are serious enough for Rice to call a meeting at the White House with Gordon and Rumsfeld. Rice allegedly says, “Let's get the story right.” Rumsfeld seems to be agreeing and looks willing to deal with the problem. However, according to the disappointed White House official, “The Pentagon went into a full-court stall.” He says, “I was naive enough to believe that when a cabinet member says he's going to take action, he will.” [The Guardian, 9/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, John A. Gordon
          

December 26, 2002

       In a front-page article, the Washington Post reports on the US intelligence program of rendition (see 1993-2004) and reveals that US agents are using “stress and duress” techniques to interrogate captives detained in Afghanistan. Persons being held in the CIA interrogation center at Bagram Air Base who refuse to cooperate “are sometimes kept standing or kneeling for hours in black hoods or spray-painted goggles, .... held in awkward, painful positions and deprived of sleep with a 24-hour bombardment of lights' subject to what are known as ‘stress and duress’ techniques,” the report says. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; Washington Post, 12/26/2002] Each of the ten current national security officials who were interviewed for the article “defended the use of violence against captives as just and necessary.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] The report quotes one official who reasons: “If you don't violate someone's human rights some of the time, you probably aren't doing your job.... I don't think we want to be promoting a view of zero tolerance on this.” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; Washington Post, 12/26/2002] Likewise, another official acknowledged that “our guys may kick them around a little bit in the adrenaline of the immediate aftermath.” A different source commented, with reference to the medical services provided for captives, that “pain control [in wounded patients] is a very subjective thing.” [Washington Post, 12/26/2002] Finally, in a very explicit remark, one of the officials interviewed by the Post, who is described as being directly involved in the rendition of captives, explained the program's logic: “We don't kick the [expletive] out of them. We send them to other countries so they can kick the [expletive] out of them.” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; Washington Post, 12/26/2002] After the report is published, Maj. Stephen Clutter, the deputy spokesman at Bagram, denies the allegations, claiming that the Washington Post article was “false on several points, the first being that there is no CIA detention facility on Bagram.” He says, “The accusation of inhumane treatment is something that I can clearly refute. The things that they talked about, the inhumane conditions ... are things that do not go on here.” [Agence France Presse, 12/29/2002] “There is a facility run by the US Army, however, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that persons under control of the US Army have been mistreated,” he explains. “A doctor examines them daily. They have access to medical care 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They have dental care. They sleep in a warm facility and have three meals a day that are prepared according to Islamic cultural and religious norms. When they arrive, they go through an interview process to determine whether they are enemy combatants or have information that can help us prevent terrorist attacks against Americans or attacks against US forces. During this interview process, they are treated as humanely as possible. We routinely allow visits, about once a week, from the International Committee of the Red Cross to ensure their treatment is humane. If they are deemed to be enemy combatants or pose a danger, they become detainees. If they are not, they are ultimately released.” [Reuters, 12/28/2002]
People and organizations involved: Stephen Clutter
          

December 27, 2002

       Human Rights Watch writes to President Bush about the allegations of torture reported in the Washington Post (see December 26, 2002), asking that the allegations be investigated immediately. [Human Rights Watch 12/26/02; Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; BBC 12/26/02; The News 12/27/02; Washington Post 12/28/02] White House spokesman Scott McClellan denies that US interrogation practices violate international law and indicates no interest on the part of the administration to investigate the allegations. “We are not aware we have received the letter. ... [W]e believe we are in full compliance with domestic and international law, including domestic and international law dealing with torture.” He adds that combatants detained by the US are always treated “humanely, in a manner consistent with the third Geneva Convention.” [Washington Post 12/28/02]
People and organizations involved: Scott McClellan, Human Rights Watch  Additional Info 
          

Late December 2002-early January 2003

       Military legal experts at Guantanamo, particularly from the Navy, inform the Office of General Counsel that they have concerns about the interrogation techniques being used on the island. It's “not clear whether it is the techniques that are being used, the techniques that have been requested, or somebody's speculation about a change in techniques at Guantanamo,” the Pentagon's Principal Deputy General Counsel Daniel J. Dell'Orto will later say at a press briefing in June 2004. [White House, 6/22/2004; New York Times, 8/25/2004]
People and organizations involved: Daniel J. Dell'Orto
          

January 2003

       A military officer asks Spc. Sean Baker, an MP and member of the Kentucky National Guard, to serve in the role of prisoner in a training exercise at Guantanamo. In one of the cells, dressed in a standard orange prison jumpsuit over his battle dress uniform, he takes up position in a cell, pretending to be uncooperative by crawling under a bunk bed. Five soldiers in the “internal reaction force” are told he is a genuine detainee who has attacked a sergeant. Baker recalls: “They grabbed my arms, my legs, twisted me up and unfortunately one of the individuals got up on my back from behind and put pressure down on me while I was face down. Then he—the same individual—reached around and began to choke me and press my head down against the steel floor. After several seconds, 20 to 30 seconds, it seemed like an eternity because I couldn't breath. When I couldn't breath, I began to panic and I gave the code word I was supposed to give to stop the exercise, which was ‘red.’ ... That individual slammed my head against the floor and continued to choke me. Somehow I got enough air. I muttered out: ‘I'm a US soldier. I'm a US soldier.’” The assault ends when the soldiers notice Baker is wearing a US uniform under the jumpsuit. Baker suffers severe head wounds and has to be treated for traumatic brain injury. The Physical Evaluation Board of the Army says in a document dated September 29, 2003: “The TBI [traumatic brain injury] was due to soldier playing role of detainee who was non-cooperative and was being extracted from detention cell in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, during a training exercise.” [New York Times, 6/5/2004]
People and organizations involved: Sean Baker
          

January 14, 2003

       Executive directors of leading human rights organizations write to Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz urging that the Bush administration publicly denounce the use of torture in any form and pledge not to seek intelligence obtained through torture in a third country. The letters also ask the US to provide clear guidelines to US forces on the treatment of detainees. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Paul Wolfowitz
          

January 31, 2003

       Executive directors of human rights organizations write to President George Bush demanding clear statements from administration officials against torture in any form and statements ensuring that any US official found to have used or approved of torture would be held accountable. The organizations also demand that the administration take steps to inform US interrogators of international laws and treaties which define the limits of lawful interrogation methods. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: George W. Bush
          

February 5, 2003

       Representatives of major human rights organizations meet with Department of Defense General Counsel William J. Haynes asking that the US government develop clear standards to prevent the mistreatment of prisoners of war. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: William J. Haynes
          

March 9, 2003

       A New York Times article reports that the US government is rendering suspects abroad (see 1993-2004) and that “stress and duress” techniques are being used at the secret CIA interrogation center located in a hangar at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan (see (October 2001-2004)). “Intelligence officials ... acknowledged that some suspects had been turned over to security services in countries known to employ torture. There have been isolated, if persistent, reports of beatings in some American-operated centers,” the report explains. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; The New York Times, 3/9/2003]
          

May 2003

       The International Committee of the Red Cross sends a memorandum to Coalition Forces reporting that it has recorded roughly 200 allegations of mistreatment and abuse from prisoners of war being held at various detention facilities in Iraq. The report notes that the allegations are supported by medical examinations of the prisoners. [New York Times, 5/13/2004 Sources: Iraq: Memorandum on concerns relating to law and order]
          

(May 2003-May 2004)

       At “various times throughout this period,” Colin Powell, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld relay the Red Cross' concerns about the Coalition's treatment of prisoners directly to President George Bush. [Baltimore Sun, 5/12/2004 Sources: Unnamed aid to Colin Powell]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, George W. Bush
          

June 2003

       Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat from Vermont, sends letters to the White House, the CIA, and the Pentagon with complaints about the treatment of detainees in Afghanistan and “other locations outside the United States.” He writes that according to unnamed officials, the prisoners are being subjected to beatings, lengthy sleep- and food-deprivation, and other “stress and duress” techniques (see April 16, 2003). He asks if these techniques are indeed being employed and urges the administration to issue a clear statement that cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment of detainees will not be tolerated. The Pentagon and CIA respond with denials that the United States is torturing its prisoners. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; USA Today, 5/13/2004]
People and organizations involved: Patrick Leahy
          

June 24, 2003

       Executive directors of human rights groups write to National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice asking that the US provide human rights monitors access to US prisoners and detention facilities in Iraq to verify conditions of detention. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice
          

June 25, 2003

       Department of Defense General Counsel William Haynes responds to a letter from Senator Patrick Leahy which asked for clarification on the administration's interrogation policy (see June 2003). Haynes replies that “it is the policy of the United States to comply with all its legal obligations in its treatment of detainees [and] ... to treat all detainees and conduct all interrogations, wherever they may occur” in a manner consistent with US obligations under the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, and Degrading Treatment. He adds that the US “does not permit, tolerate, or condone any such torture by its employees under any circumstances.” He also says that the Fifth, Eighth, and/or Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution require the US “to prevent other acts of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment which do not amount to torture.” Notably, he does not provide information about the specific interrogation tactics that US forces are permitted to use. “It would not be appropriate to catalogue the interrogation techniques used by US personnel thus we cannot comment on specific cases or practices,” Haynes says. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004; Wall Street Journal, 6/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Patrick Leahy, William J. Haynes
          

June 25, 2003

       US Senator Arlen Specter writes to Condoleezza Rice asking for “clarification about numerous stories concerning alleged mistreatment of enemy combatants in US custody” and requesting that she explain how the administration ensures that detainees rendered to other countries are not tortured. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Arlen Specter, Condoleezza Rice
          

June 26, 2003

       Amnesty International sends a letter to Paul Bremer, head of the Office of the Coalition Provisional Authority (OCPA). The letter specifically mentions the poor conditions at Abu Ghraib prison and calls attention to a June 13 incident (see June 13, 2003) where one Iraq detainee, Ala' Jassem Sa'ad, was shot dead and seven others were wounded when US soldiers fired into the air during a prisoners' demonstration protesting conditions and broken promises. [Amnesty International, 6/30/2003]
People and organizations involved: Ala' Jassem Sa'ad, Paul Bremer
          

Early July 2003

       The International Committee of the Red Cross sends the Coalition Forces a working paper reporting 50 allegations of mistreatment in the military intelligence section of Camp Cropper. Among the allegations reported in the memo are: “threats (to intern individuals indefinitely, to arrest other family members, to transfer individuals to Guantanamo) against persons deprived of their liberty or against members of their families (in particular wives and daughters); hooding; tight handcuffing; use of stress positions (kneeling, squatting, standing with arms raised over the head) for three or four hours; taking aim at individuals with rifles; striking them with rifle butts; slaps; punches; prolonged exposure to the sun; and isolation in dark cells.” The report says that medical examinations of the prisoners supported their allegations. [New York Times, 5/11/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]
          

July 16, 2003

       The CIA's Baghdad station sends a cable to the agency's headquarters in Langley, Virginia informing superiors that it is concerned about the aggressive interrogation techniques being used by Joint Task Force (JTF) 121. A senior intelligence official says, “We were not happy and the station was not happy that the military was using certain interrogation techniques as part of the battlefield interrogation process.” [New York Times, 9/11/2004]
          

July 23, 2003

       Amnesty International sends a memorandum to the US government and Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) titled, “Memorandum on concerns relating to law and order,” which states that the organization “has received a number of reports of torture or ill-treatment by Coalition Forces not confined to criminal suspects.” The memo explains that Coalition troops are using a number of methods, including “prolonged sleep deprivation; prolonged restraint in painful positions, sometimes combined with exposure to loud music; prolonged hooding; and exposure to bright lights.” Amnesty makes it very clear that these actions constitute “torture or inhuman treatment” and are prohibited by the Fourth Geneva Convention and by international human rights law. [Sources: Iraq: Memorandum on concerns relating to law and order] The memorandum also informs the CPA that there are reports that prisoners have been killed by Coalition Forces. “Amnesty International has received a number of reports of cases of detainees who have died in custody, mostly as a result of shooting by members of the Coalition Forces. Other cases of deaths in custody where ill-treatment may have caused or contributed to death have been reported.” [Sources: Iraq: Memorandum on concerns relating to law and order] The Coalition Provisional Authority does not provide any response to Amnesty International's memo or provide any indication that the allegations will be investigated. [Amnesty International, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Amnesty International
          

October 18, 2003

       The Associated Press submits a list of questions to US command regarding specific accounts from former detainees regarding torture, execution, and poor living conditions at Coalition detention centers in Iraq. US command does not respond. [The Associated Press, 10/29/2004]
          

October 29, 2003

       The Associated Press reports that detainees in Iraq are being subjected to torture and inhumane living conditions and tells of an instance where a prisoner was shot and killed. It recounts the story of one prisoner, Saaed Naif, who said he saw another prisoner “shot dead at Abu Ghraib when he approached the razor wire.” The report also describes a type of punishment where the victim is confined to a razor-wire enclosed area—known as “The Gardens” —and forced to lie face down, hands tied behind the back, on the burning sand for two or three hours. In one incident, when a woman was sent to the “The Gardens,” her infuriated brother attempted to leave the razor wire enclosure around his tent but prison personnel “shot him in the shoulder.” Many former prisoners of the detainment centers agreed that some of the worst atrocities at the prisons were the guards' treatment of the women, sick, and disabled. [The Associated Press, 10/29/2004]
People and organizations involved: Saaed Naif
          

November 2003

       US military officials in Baghdad receive internal documents citing at least 20 complaints of abuse at Abu Ghraib. [New York Times, 6/19/2004]
          

November 5, 2003

       Major General Marshal Donald Ryder files a report on the prison system in Iraq, as requested by Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez earlier in the fall (see (Early October 2003)). He concludes that there are potential systemic human rights, training, and manpower issues that need immediate attention at Abu Ghraib. But he also says that he found “no military police units purposely applying inappropriate confinement practices.” [Sources: Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade] Ryder suggests that the problem may stem from methods used in Afghanistan where MPs have worked with intelligence operatives to “set favorable conditions for subsequent interviews.” He recommends that military police no longer participate in military intelligence supervised interrogations. Guidelines need to be drawn up that “define the role of military police soldiers ... clearly separating the actions of the guards from those of the military intelligence personnel,” he says. [The New Yorker, 5/17/2004; The New Yorker, 5/7/2004] An investigation by Gen. Antonio M. Taguba completed next year (see March 9, 2004) will come to the same conclusion. “I concur fully with MG Ryder's conclusion regarding the effect of AR 190-8. Military Police, though adept at passive collection of intelligence within a facility, should not participate in military intelligence supervised interrogation sessions. Moreover, Military Police should not be involved with setting ‘favorable conditions’ [emphasis by Taguba] for subsequent interviews. These actions ... clearly run counter to the smooth operation of a detention facility.” [Sources: Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade] Ryder does not appear to report on actual instances of prisoner abuse and downplays the gravity of the situation, saying it has not yet reached a crisis point. [The New Yorker, 5/7/2004; The New Yorker, 5/17/2004]
People and organizations involved: Antonio M. Taguba, Donald J. Ryder, Ricardo S. Sanchez
          

November 6, 2003

       The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) complains in writing to Coalition Forces about the treatment of prisoners being held at Abu Ghraib prison (see October 2003). [New York Times, 5/19/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004; Associated Press, 5/16/2004 Sources: Article 15-6 Investigation of the 800th Military Police Brigade] The ICRC's complaints are then discussed at high levels inside the Bush administration. “We knew that the ICRC had concerns, and in accordance with the matter in which the ICRC does its work, it presented those concerns directly to the command in Baghdad,” Powell will later recall on “Fox News Sunday.” “And I know that some corrective action was taken with respect to those concerns,” he adds. [Associated Press, 5/16/2004]
People and organizations involved: Colin Powell
          

January 12, 2004

       Human Rights Watch writes to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld “to express concern about incidents in which US forces stationed in Iraq detained innocent, close relatives of wanted suspects in order to compel the suspects to surrender, which amounts to hostage-taking, classified as a war crime under the Geneva Conventions.” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld
          

January 13, 2004

       The Army Criminal Investigation Division (CID) agent who received the Abu Ghraib prison photographs from Spc. Joseph Darby (see January 13, 2004), calls his boss, a colonel, who takes them to Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez. [Signal Newspaper of Santa Clara, 7/4/2004] Within three days, a report on the photos makes its way to Donald Rumsfeld, who informs President Bush. [The New Yorker, 5/15/2004] Within the Pentagon, few people are informed—unusually few—according to Hersh, who will later write that knowledge of the abuses were “severely, and unusually restricted.” A former intelligence official will tell him: “I haven't talked to anybody on the inside who knew; nowhere. It's got them scratching their heads.” Rumsfeld and his civilian staff, Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez and Gen. John P. Abizaid, reportedly try to suppress the issue during the first months of the year. “They foresaw major diplomatic problems,” according to a Pentagon official. [The New Yorker, 5/17/2004] According to one former intelligence official, the Defense Secretary's attitude is: “We've got a glitch in the program. We'll prosecute it.” The former official explains to Seymour Hersh, “The cover story was that some kids got out of control.” [The New Yorker, 5/15/2004]
People and organizations involved: John P. Abizaid, George W. Bush, The New Yorker, Criminal Investigation Division, Donald Rumsfeld, Seymour Hersh, Ricardo S. Sanchez
          

January 13, 2004

       The Asian Wall Street Journal reports that a suspect detained by US forces in Iraq claimed that “he was ordered to stand upright until he collapsed after 13 hours” and that interrogators “burned his arm with a cigarette.” [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
          

January 15, 2004

       Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), meets with Secretary of State Colin Powell and says that the ICRC has “serious concerns about detainees in Iraq,” though according to a senior State Department official, he does not detail them. During his visit, Kellenberger also meets with Condoleezza Rice and, reportedly, with Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, though it is unclear what precisely is discussed. White House Spokesman Sean McCormack will later say that “Iraq was not mentioned” during the meeting with Rice. Rather the main topic of discussion was Guantanamo, he says. [The Observer, 5/9/2004; Baltimore Sun, 5/12/2004]
People and organizations involved: Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell, Paul Wolfowitz, Jakob Kellenberger, Sean McCormack
          

February 10, 2004

       Human Rights Watch sends a letter to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld expressing concern about the treatment of detainees in Iraq. The organization asks that the administration make information on the detainees publicly available. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004]
People and organizations involved: Donald Rumsfeld
          

February 24, 2004

       The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) files a report with Coalition Authorities complaining that its soldiers and intelligence officers have been arresting and detaining Iraqis without cause, routinely using excessive force during the initial stages of detention, and subjecting prisoners to extreme physical and emotional abuse. The report is based on 29 visits to 14 detention centers in Iraq between March 31 and October 24, 2003, during which time ICRC workers privately interviewed thousands of prisoners. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004; Washington Post, 5/12/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs] Among its findings:
According to “certain CF (Coalition Forces) military intelligence officers,” 70 to 90 percent of the detainees being held in captivity were “arrested by mistake.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Captives were not informed of the reason for their arrest or provided with access to legal counsel. “They were often questioned without knowing what they were accused of. They were not allowed to ask questions and were not provided with an opportunity to seek clarification about the reason for their arrest.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

There were eight instances in which American guards shot at their captives resulting in seven prisoner deaths and 18 injuries. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

During the initial stages of captivity, prisoners were subjected to brutality which sometimes caused serious injury or death. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were subjected to physical and psychological coercion, which in “some cases was tantamount to torture.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were kept in prolonged solitary confinement in cells in complete darkness. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prison guards and soldiers used excessive and disproportionate use of force. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners being held in Unit 1A of Abu Ghraib were kept “completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness.” Some of the prisoners were forced into “acts of humiliation such as being made to stand naked against the wall of the cell with arms raised or with women's underwear over the [sic] heads for prolonged periods—while being laughed at by guards, including female guards, and sometimes photographed in this position.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners' hands were often bound with flexi-cuffs so tightly that the captive incurred skin wounds and nerve damage. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Soldiers pressed prisoners' faces into the ground with their combat boots. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were beaten with pistols and rifles and were slapped, punched, or kicked with knees or boots. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were threatened with execution and transferred to Guantanamo. Some captives were told that their family members would be harmed. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were deprived of adequate sleep, food, water, and access to open air. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Prisoners were subjected to forced and prolonged exposure to hot sun on days when the temperature exceed 120 degrees. [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Interviews with military intelligence officers confirmed that “methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information.” [Washington Post, 5/10/2004 Sources: Report of the ICRC on the treatment by Coalition Forces of POWs]

Iraqi police, operating under control of the US, turned people over to Coalition Forces for refusing to pay bribes. [New York Times (Editorial), 5/12/2004]

          

March 8, 2004

       Human Rights Watch publishes a report on the human rights violations being committed by US forces in Afghanistan. The report, “Enduring Freedom: Abuses by US Forces in Afghanistan,” is based on research conducted by the organization in southeastern and eastern Afghanistan from 2003 to early 2004. It “details numerous abuses by US personnel, including cases of excessive force during arrests; arbitrary and indefinite detention; and mistreatment of detainees” depicting a system that “operates almost entirely outside of the rule of law.” For example, the report finds that prisoners in the custody of US Forces are “continuously shackled, intentionally kept awake for extended periods of time, ... forced to kneel or stand in painful positions for extended periods,” kicked and beaten, and drenched with freezing water in the winter. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004 Sources: Enduring Freedom: Abuses by U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, HRW, 3/8/2004]
People and organizations involved: Human Rights Watch
          

May 3, 2004

       Human Rights Watch sends a letter to US National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice informing her that the ill treatment and torture of prisoners by the US military in Iraq is not limited to isolated incidents. The organization emphasizes that it is a systemic and widespread problem and urges the US to take immediate action to ensure that imprisonment and interrogation practices comply with international law. [Human Rights Watch, 5/7/2004 Sources: Human Rights letter to National Security Advisor, May 3, 2004]
People and organizations involved: Human Rights Watch, Condoleezza Rice
          


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