Newly Released Investigative Files Provide Further Evidence Soldiers Not Held Accountable for Abuse
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:
- An investigation into the killing of Sajid Khadim. The killing was reported in a Washington Post article, which stated that U.S. forces barged into Khadim's house in the middle of the night, dragged him away from his family, killed him, and stuffed his body under some mats behind the refrigerator. An Army criminal investigation was initiated on the basis of the article but the investigation does not specifically address the facts alleged in the article. Instead, special agents relied entirely on an Army investigation that appears to predate the Washington Post story. The Army investigation summarily concludes that the killing was justifiable homicide.
- A file summarizing an interview with a private contractor who witnessed abuse at Abu Ghraib. The file states: "In Abu Ghraib prison, he witnessed a female soldier he believed to be U.S. Army Military Police make a detainee jump up and down and then roll left to right on the ground in what he believed to be 150 degree Fahrenheit temperature . . . [T]his went on for about twenty minutes and the detainee was at the point where he collapsed several times and when the detainee attempted to drink water he would vomit." The file contains no indication that the incident was investigated.
- An investigation into abuse at an unknown detention facility in Iraq. After a detainee began screaming on the ninth day of his solitary confinement, three soldiers cuffed him and pinned him face down in between two stretchers, which were tied together. The investigation into the incident was closed after Criminal Investigation Command agents stated that similar methods are used in the United States and should not be viewed as abusive. A photo displaying a U.S. soldier sitting on a detainee similarly pinned between two stretchers was featured on 60 Minutes II in May 2004, which may indicate that the method was used routinely.
- A U.S. soldier filed a sworn statement that he "saw what I think were war crimes" and that his "chain of command did nothing to stop these war crimes, and allowed them to happen." The soldier reported physical assaults by U.S. troops on detainees held at Camp Red in Baghdad and the use of prolonged hooding, exposure to elements and excessive restraints. Though the soldier witnessed the abuse, the investigation was closed due to "insufficient evidence."
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.