Private Jeremy Sivits on Monday testified at the resumption of a military court hearing for England, the pregnant 21-year-old soldier who became the public face of the abuse at Abu Ghraib prison, a scandal that has shocked the Arab world and rattled US efforts to stabilise Iraq.

   

England, one of seven military police officers charged, faces 19 counts of assault, conspiracy to mistreat prisoners, committing indecent acts, disobeying orders and possessing sexually explicit material. She could face up to 38 years in prison if convicted.

   

The hearing, held at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, is a preliminary phase of military court proceedings and will help determine if she should face trial. Twenty-five witnesses testified from 3-7 August before the hearing was halted.

Tier 1

   

England has become the public
face of the Abu Ghraib abuse

Testifying by phone from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, Sivits told the court he saw England standing behind a group of prisoners on the floor when he entered the Abu Ghraib cellblock known as Tier 1 on 8 November 2003.

 

Sivits encountered England, Staff Sergeant "Chip" Frederick, Specialist Charles Graner and other soldiers with a group of detainees who had supposedly tried to start a riot.

   

"They were stomping on the fingers and toes of the detainees," Sivits said, referring to England and Graner. England, wearing a maternity camouflage uniform, listened to the testimony in the Fort Bragg courtroom.

   

England's lawyers have tried to show she was following orders when she was photographed with humiliated prisoners. In one photo she holds an Iraqi detainee on a leash and in another she points at the genitals of a hooded, naked man.

 

Abuse continued

   

England's colleague Sivits said he
did not try to stop the abuse

Sivits said a non-commissioned officer who was present told the MPs to "knock it off", but after he left, the abuse continued.

   

Sivits said Graner ordered the detainees to strip down.

 

"Once they were stripped down," said Sivits, "that's when they put them in a pyramid and started taking pictures." The prisoners were also lined up naked against a wall, at which point, "England began making comments about their ...  things of that nature".

   

According to Sivits, during this treatment the prisoners all had their heads covered with sandbags, were cooperative and did nothing to provoke the guards. Although he knew what he was seeing was wrong, Sivits said he did not try to stop the abuse

or tell anyone what he had seen.

   

Sivits said Graner told him he had been ordered to "soften up" the prisoners.

 

Order

 

"They were stomping on the fingers and toes of the detainees"

Private Jeremy Sivits

Before he left the prison that night, Sivits was told by Graner "that he didn't see" anything, a statement that Sivits said he took as an order.

   

In May, Sivits admitted he sexually humiliated prisoners. He was demoted to private, thrown out of the military on a bad conduct discharge and jailed for 12 months.

   

England's attorneys asked Sivits about his training regarding the Geneva Conventions and the acceptable treatment of prisoners, as part of their larger defence that higher-ups were responsible for the abuse at Abu Ghraib.

   

Although Sivits said he had never been ordered to abuse prisoners, he said he had never received a copy of the Geneva Conventions or any training regarding the conventions.