Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Abuse of Iraqi prisoners - soldiers say it was widespread

An article in this weekend's New York Times (based on a Human Rights Watch report) contains more allegations of widespread abuse of prisoners in Iraq:
Three former members of the Army's 82nd Airborne Division say soldiers in their battalion in Iraq routinely beat and abused prisoners in 2003 and 2004 to help gather intelligence on the insurgency and to amuse themselves.

"In separate statements to the human rights organization, Captain Fishback and two sergeants described systematic abuses of Iraqi prisoners, including beatings, exposure to extremes of hot and cold, stacking in human pyramids and sleep deprivation at Camp Mercury, a forward operating base near Falluja. ...

"The abuses reportedly took place between September 2003 and April 2004, before and during the investigations into the notorious misconduct at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Senior Pentagon officials initially sought to characterize the scandal there as the work of a rogue group of military police soldiers on the prison's night shift. Since then, the Army has opened more than 400 inquiries into detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, and punished 230 enlisted soldiers and officers.
The abuses reported by these soldiers are similar to what we've heard before:
"In one incident, the Human Rights Watch report states, an off-duty cook broke a detainee's leg with a metal baseball bat. Detainees were also stacked, fully clothed, in human pyramids and forced to hold five-gallon water jugs with arms outstretched or do jumping jacks until they passed out, the report says. 'We would give them blows to the head, chest, legs and stomach, and pull them down, kick dirt on them,' one sergeant told Human Rights Watch researchers during one of four interviews in July and August. 'This happened every day.'"
This certainly isn't the first time abuse has been alleged in US prisons in Iraq or other places, but it's interesting to note that these soldiers appear to have been influenced by prior abuse reports:
"Even after the Abu Ghraib scandal became public, one of the sergeants said, the abuses continued. 'We still did it, but we were careful,' he told the human rights group."

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