Evidence of Iraqi torture presented four months ago -30/4/04
Photographs that have emerged showing the torture of Iraqi detainees by US soldiers substantiated evidence already given to the authorities in Iraq at the beginning of January. The news also challenges the claim by the US military that the torture was an "isolated incident". In January, as reported by Ekklesia, Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) presented the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Iraq with a dossier of statistical data compiled from seventy-two case studies of the mistreatment of Iraqi detainees, including torture. Now United States soldiers at a prison outside Baghdad have been charged with forcing Iraqi prisoners into acts of sexual humiliation and other abuses, which have been documented by photographs taken by guards in the prison. Some of the photographs, and descriptions of others, were broadcast in the US on Wednesday by a CBS television news program and were verified by military officials. Of the six people reported in March to be facing preliminary charges, three have been recommended for courts martial. Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski, in charge of prisons in Iraq, has also been suspended. At the time that Christian Peacemaker Teams presented the Coalition authority with the dossier, an American soldier is said to have also alerted superior officers to the abuses saying: "There are some things going on that I can't live with." But staff Sgt Chip Frederick claimed civilian observers, FBI and CIA agents and senior officers turned a blind eye and even encouraged some of the abuses. Several of the accused soldiers claimed they had been told to "soften up" the prisoners for interrogation. Christian Peacemaker Teams, which had maintained an almost continuous presence in Iraq from October 25, 2002 followed the cases of numerous Iraqis detained by US forces. In evidence presented to the CPA they highlighted that often these detentions involved acts of violence, as well as theft and destruction of personal property. They also highlighted the lack of legal representation or clear judicial process. Such actions, said CPT, were violations of Iraqis' human rights according to international law and fuelled violent responses which endangered the lives of the Coalition soldiers who occupy Iraq. A television program on CBS has now reported that poorly trained US reservists were forcing Iraqis to conduct simulated sexual acts in order to break down their will before they were turned over to others for interrogation. In one photograph naked Iraq prisoners stand in a human pyramid, one with a slur written on his skin in English. In another, a prisoner stands on a box, his head covered, wires attached to his body. The news show said that, according to the army, he had been told that if he fell off the box he would be electrocuted. Other photographs show male prisoners positioned to simulate sex with each other. "The pictures show Americans, men and women, in military uniforms, posing with naked Iraqi prisoners," a transcript said. "And in most of the pictures, the Americans are laughing, posing, pointing or giving the camera a thumbs-up." The program's producers said the army also had photographs showing a detainee with wires attached to his genitals and another that showed a dog attacking a prisoner. The photographs were taken inside Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad, where US forces have been holding hundreds of Iraqis. Gary Myers, the lawyer for one of the enlisted men who has been charged, said the military had treated the six enlisted soldiers as scapegoats and had failed to deal adequately with the responsibilities of senior commanders and intelligence personnel involved in the interrogations. Officers at the prison, including a brigadier-general, faced administrative review, officials said. Mr Myers said that the accused men, all from a reserve military police unit, were told to soften up the prisoners by more senior interrogators, some of whom they believe were intelligence officials and outside contractors. "This case involves a monumental failure of leadership, where lower level enlisted people are being scapegoated," Mr Myers said. "The real story is not in these six young enlisted people. The real story is the manner in which the intelligence community forced them into this position."