America On Trial  

 Cruel and Unusual Punishment at
 Abu Ghraib and other US-run prisons


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In the un-humbled opinion of one, Poetic Justice...

In the war on terror, the photographing of prisoners held in US-run jails all over the world seems to be a critical part of a new, American dehumanizing interrogation process.

From embedded cameras capturing the Iraq invasion to video of Saddam Hussein being checked for lice -- shooting humiliating photos of people has been a constant. The camera became America's terrifying new weapon but its true power was not seen until the weapon was turned and used against us.

The May, 2004 exposure of pictures showing grinning U.S. soldiers abusing naked Iraqis at the Abu Ghraib prison -- the same prison once used by Saddam Hussein's torturers -- has ignited international outrage.

Archbishop Giovanni Lajolo described the abuses
as "a tragic episode in the relationship with Islam" and
said the scandal would fuel hatred for the West and for
Christianity. Archbishop Lajolo was also quoted as saying:

"The torture? A more serious blow to the
United States than September 11 -- except that
the blow was not inflicted by terrorists, but by
Americans against themselves."

What Happened at Abu Ghraib Prison?

Click to open a larger picture in a new window.

Spec. Joseph M. Darby

"It was just wrong. I knew I had to do something."

Washington Post
May 22

Spec. Joseph M. Darby told investigators that he returned to Abu Ghraib from leave in November and heard about a shooting at the prison's "hard site," which contains Tier 1A. He said that he asked the MP in charge of the tier's night shift, Spec. Charles A. Graner Jr., if he had any photographs of the cell where the shooting took place.

Darby said Graner handed him two CDs of photographs.

"I thought the discs just had pictures of Iraq, the cell where the shooting occurred," Darby told investigators.

Instead, Darby viewed hundreds of photographs showing naked detainees being abused by U.S. soldiers.

He said that he asked Graner, a Pennsylvania prison guard in civilian life, about the photographs. Graner replied:
"The Christian in me says it's wrong, but the corrections officer in me says, 'I love to make a grown man piss himself.' "

"Power corrupts the few, while weakness corrupts the many."
-- Eric Hoffer

Just a Few Bad Apples?

So far only a handful of people are being blamed. The cases against the soldiers -- there are now seven charged -- are each quite different.

"We intend to put the military on trial for their breakdown in leadership, structure, guidance, policy," said lawyer Paul Bergrin.

One defendant, Specialist Megan M. Ambuhl, says she was merely a bystander who treated the Iraqi detainees kindly, giving them copies of the Koran and making sure their meals contained no pork. Specialist Ambuhl is charged with conspiracy and dereliction of duty but has not been implicated in the most serious abuse.

Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits, in a statement to investigators, described brutal conduct by Staff Sgt. Ivan L. Frederick II and Specialist Charles A. Graner Jr., who, in turn, call him a liar. Sivits's lawyer is Stanley L. Martin.

In return for a lighter sentence--a year in jail, demotion, and expulsion from the Army -- Spc. Jeremy Sivits promised to testify against the military police accused of ruthlessly abusing prisoners.

Then there is Sgt. Javal S. Davis. His lawyer, Paul Bergrin, accuses the government of abusing him by interrogating him for 20 sleepless hours right after he worked a 60-hour shift at Abu Ghraib.

Specialist Graner and Sergeant Frederick, are charged with the worst conduct, including placing naked detainees in a human pyramid and photographing them, ordering them to masturbate, placing them in sexual positions and ordering them to strike each other. They are also accused of hitting detainees so hard they required medical attention.

"Our defense says he was following orders and that he believed the orders were lawful," said Guy L. Womack, a lawyer for Specialist Graner.

"We have been informed that these pictures were being used by military intelligence and were to be used because these are Muslim men, and the ultimate humiliation was to be naked in the presence of women," said Rose Mary Zapor who represents Private England.

"We thought it looked funny so pictures were taken."
-- Pfc. Lynndie England, May 5, 2004

Private England Speaks
(1.5 MOV file)

At least 37 death investigations
of US detainees are presently underway.

The Army has undertaken criminal investigations into the deaths of at least 32 Iraqis and five Afghans held by U.S. forces since August 2002, Pentagon officials revealed.

Nine are active cases, and eight of those are classified as homicides involving suspected assaults of detainees before or during interrogation sessions. Two have been resolved as homicide cases. Four are called justifiable homicides and 15 have been classified as deaths by natural or undetermined cause, the Pentagon said.

Of the total cases, 30 involve detainees who died inside a U.S.-run detention facility.

The Mysterious Death of an Iraqi General

In late May 2004, the Pentagon disclosed that the death of an Iraqi general on November 26, 2003 was a homicide. The disappearance of Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, 57, remains a mystery to his family who believe he died at the hands of military interrogators.

According to a U.S. military death certificate dated Dec. 2, Mowhoush died of "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression."

Several of the worst abuses photographed took place on a single day -- November 8, 2003.

In one of the most striking images to surface, a detainee jokingly referred to as "Gilligan" by the MPs, was forced to stand on a box of food with wires connected to his fingers, toes and penis.

Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez,
the highest-ranking U.S. military officer in Iraq, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on May 19, 2004 that he was "horrified at the abusive behavior" at Abu Ghraib. But according to Brig. Gen. Janis L. Karpinski , who was in charge of U.S. detention facilities in Iraq as commander of the 800th Military Police Brigade, Sanchez visited Abu Ghraib at least three times in October 2003.

Sanchez testified:
"We must fully investigate and fix responsibility, as well as accountability. I am fully committed to thorough and impartial investigations that examine the role, commissions and omissions of the entire chain of command -- and that includes me. As a senior commander in Iraq, I accept responsibility for what happened at Abu Ghraib, and I accept as a solemn obligation the responsibility to ensure that it does not happen again."

Sanchez testified he did not know about or sanction interrogation procedures that permitted harsh treatment such as 72 hours of "sleep management," the use of dogs to intimidate prisoners, "sensory deprivation" for up to 72 hours and confinement in "stress positions" for up to 45 minutes. The procedures were drafted by an Army captain in a document that said they could be used only with Sanchez's express, written permission.

But the controversial interrogation rules that Sanchez said he did not know about were posted on the wall of the interrogation room at Abu Ghraib, an Army colonel testified at the Senate hearing.

Capt. Robert Shuck, a military lawyer, said he was told by the 372nd's company commander,
Capt. Donald Reese, that Sanchez and other senior officials were aware of what was taking place at Abu Ghraib.

Army Lt. Gen. Sanchez / Brig. Gen. Karpinski
Sanchez and Karpinski

Tier 1A

Washington Post
May, 21, 2004

The disclosures come from a new cache of documents, photographs and videos obtained by The Post that are part of evidence assembled by Army investigators putting together criminal cases against soldiers at Abu Ghraib. . . The sworn statements, taken in Baghdad between Jan. 16 and Jan. 21, span 65 pages.

The detainees said they were savagely beaten and repeatedly humiliated sexually by American soldiers working on the night shift at Tier 1A in Abu Ghraib.

Most of the detainees said in the statements that they were stripped upon their arrival to Tier 1A, forced to wear women's underwear, and repeatedly humiliated in front of one another and American soldiers. They also described beatings and threats of death and sexual assault if they did not cooperate with U.S. interrogators.

Kasim Mehaddi Hilas, detainee No. 151108, told investigators that when he first arrived at Abu Ghraib last year, he was forced to strip, put on a hoodand wear rose-colored panties with flowers on them. "Most of the days I was wearing nothing else," he said in his statement.

Hilas also said he witnessed an Army translator having sex with a boy at the prison. He said the boy was between 15 and 18 years old. Someone hung sheets to block the view, but Hilas said he heard the boy's screams and climbed a door to get a better look. Hilas said he watched the assault and told investigators that it was documented by a female soldier taking pictures.

"The kid was hurting very bad," Hilas said.

"On the third day, after five o'clock, Mr. Graner came and took me to room Number 37, which is the shower room, and he started punishing me," said
Abdou Hussain Saad Faleh, detainee No. 18170. "Then he brought a box of food and he made me stand on it with no clothing, except a blanket. Then a tall black soldier came and put electrical wires on my fingers and toes and on my penis, and I had a bag over my head."

He said a bag was put over his head and he was made to strip. He said American soldiers started to taunt him.

"Do you pray to Allah?" one asked. "I said yes. They said, '[Expletive] you. And [expletive] him.' One of them said, 'You are not getting out of here health[y], you are getting out of here handicapped. And he said to me, 'Are you married?' I said, 'Yes.' They said, 'If your wife saw you like this, she will be disappointed.' One of them said, 'But if I saw her now she would not be disappointed now because I would rape her.' "

He said the soldiers told him that if he cooperated with interrogators they would release him in time for Ramadan. He said he did, but still was not released. He said one soldier continued to abuse him by striking his broken leg and ordered him to curse Islam. "Because they started to hit my broken leg, I cursed my religion," he said. "They ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive."

The detainee said the soldiers handcuffed him to a bed.

"Do you believe in anything?" he said the soldier asked. "I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, "But I believe in torture and I will torture you.' "

"They forced us to walk like dogs on our hands and knees," said
Hiadar Sabar Abed Miktub al-Aboodi, detainee No. 13077 . "And we had to bark like a dog, and if we didn't do that they started hitting us hard on our face and chest with no mercy. After that, they took us to our cells, took the mattresses out and dropped water on the floor and they made us sleep on our stomachs on the floor with the bags on our head and they took pictures of everything."

"They said we will make you wish to die and it will not happen," said
Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik, detainee No. 151362 . "They stripped me naked. One of them told me he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and makes me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks."

"The police was telling me to crawl in Arabic, so I crawled on my stomach and the police were spitting on me when I was crawling, and hitting me on my back, my head and my feet," he said in his sworn statement.

One day, the detainee said, American soldiers held him down and spread his legs as another soldier prepared to open his pants. "I started screaming," he said. A soldier stepped on his head, he said, and someone broke a phosphoric light and spilled the chemicals on him.

"I was glowing and they were laughing," he said.

The detainee said the soldiers eventually brought him to a room and sodomized him with a nightstick. "They were taking pictures of me during all these instances," he told the investigators.

Mohanded Juma Juma, detainee No. 152307 , said he was stripped and kept naked for six days when he arrived at Abu Ghraib. One day, he said, American soldiers brought a father and his son into the cellblock. He said the soldiers put hoods over their heads and removed their clothes.

Then, they removed the hoods.

"When the son saw his father naked he was crying," Juma told the investigators. "He was crying because of seeing his father."

He also said Graner repeatedly threw the detainees' meals into the toilets and said, "Eat it."


Selected Items from the GENEVA CONVENTIONS

Internees must be provided with adequate clothing, footwear, and underwear. (Convention IV, Art. 90)

In no case may disciplinary penalties be inhuman, brutal or dangerous to the health of the internees. (Convention IV, Art. 119)

Imprisonment in premises without daylight and all forms of cruelty without exception are forbidden. (Convention IV, Art. 118)

Internees may not be transferred to prisons to undergo disciplinary punishment there. (Convention IV, Art. 124)

Civilians in an occupied territory must not be subject to physical or moral coercion for the purposes of obtaining information from them or from third parties. (Convention IV, Art. 31)

Unlawful confinement of civilians is a grave breach of the Geneva Convention. (Convention IV, Art. 147)

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