FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Special Forces, Including TF 6-26, Implicated in Numerous Incidents; Abuse Not Confined to Abu Ghraib
NEW YORK- Investigative files released today by the American Civil Liberties Union suggest that the Army failed to aggressively investigate allegations of detainee abuse. Some of the investigations concern serious allegations of torture including electric shocks, forced sodomy and severe physical beatings.
"Government investigations into allegations of torture and abuse have been woefully inadequate," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. "Some of the investigations have basically whitewashed the torture and abuse. The documents that the ACLU has obtained tell a damning story of widespread torture reaching well beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib."
The release of these documents follows a federal court order that directed the Defense Department and other government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the Freedom of Information Act filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.
Many of the documents released today implicate Special Forces, including Task Force 6-26 and Task Force 20, in cases of abuse. In one instance involving TF 20, an elderly Iraqi woman reported having been sodomized with a stick, but an investigation into the allegation was closed on the basis of a "sanitized copy of the unit 15-6 investigation," which has not been released. In another case involving Special Forces Group ODA 343, investigators found that there was probable cause to believe that three members of the group had committed the offenses of murder and conspiracy and that a commander was an accessory after the fact. However, no action was taken against the commander or two of the soldiers. The remaining soldier received only a written reprimand.
"These documents raise grave questions about how seriously the government is investigating allegations of torture," said Amrit Singh, a staff attorney with the ACLU Immigrants' Rights Project. "In numerous cases, investigations were abandoned before relevant witnesses were questioned, and in some investigations where guilt was found, soldiers who engaged in heinous crimes were sent back to their posts with what amounts to a slap on the wrist."
In other cases, Singh noted, investigations were abandoned because abusive conduct was characterized as acceptable practice or as "standard operating procedure."
Some of the files that raise questions include:
One set of documents released today by the ACLU includes multiple accounts of abuse at Al-Azimiyah Palace in Baghdad. In sworn statements, private contractors report having witnessed numerous instances of abuse of male and female detainees, including forced sodomy, electric shocks, cigarette burns and beatings. According to one statement, Al-Azimiyah Palace was the site of at least "about 90 incidents" of abuse.
Romero said the ACLU is continuing to press the government to disclose more documents and will return to court if necessary to ensure that all relevant documents are released.
The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Singh, Omar Jadwat, Jameel Jaffer and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of CCR.
For a copy of the new documents released today, go to: /torturefoia/released/012405.html.
More information on the ACLU lawsuit can be found at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia.