Pentagon stalling on abuse inquiry

Saying it possessed classified documents on US soldiers carrying out abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison, Rolling Stone magazine has accused the US military of foot-dra

Last Modified: 01 Aug 2004 01:23 GMT
Sanchez ordered an investigation into abuses in January

Saying it possessed classified documents on US soldiers carrying out abuse and torture at Abu Ghraib prison, Rolling Stone magazine has accused the US military of foot-dragging on investigations.

"The Pentagon is stalling on several investigations, and congressional inquiries have ground to a halt," Rolling Stone editors wrote in the foreword to the article titled The Secret File of Abu Ghraib by Osha Gray Davidson.


"The foot-dragging is astonishing, given that Congress has access to classified documents detailing the abuses outlined by Major-General Antonio Taguba in his report on Abu Ghraib," the editors wrote.


The magazine claims that there are 106 secret files which the Department of Defence (DOD) withheld from the Taguba investigation.


The Taguba investigation of alleged abuse by soldiers and officers of the 800th Military Police Brigade at the Abu Ghraib Prison in Baghdad was ordered by Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of Joint Task Force 7, on 19 January this year.


The investigation was to cover all alleged incidents related to "detention and internment operations" between 1 November 2003 and the time at which the report was delivered in May 2004.


External pressure


Sanchez had been responding to pressure from the International Commission of the Red Cross (ICRC) who had maintained that violations had occurred at Abu Ghraib.

Taguba gave his report to the
Senate Armed Services committee


Although the ICRC conducted a wide-scale investigation of conditions at US-run Iraqi detention facilities and camps in January 2004, and presented a report to occupation forces the following month, its findings were never made public.


The ICRC believed it had already seen positive changes on the basis of its consultations with US occupation forces in Iraq and that its report had been instrumental in convincing the Pentagon to launch internal investigations and "probably to dismiss or suspend some of those responsible for the abuses".


In July 2003, Amnesty International reported that Iraqis were being shot while in custody and subjected to human rights abuses.


"Detainees continue to report suffering extreme heat while housed in tents; insufficient water; inadequate washing facilities; open trenches for toilets; no change of clothes, even after two months' detention," it said. 


However, US authorities refused to allow an Amnesty delegation into the detention centres.


Bug-infested meals


The files obtained by Rolling Stone echoed Amnesty's concerns.


"The files depict a prison in complete chaos. Prisoners were fed bug-infested food and forced to live in squalid conditions; detainees and US soldiers alike were killed and wounded in nightly mortar attacks," Davidson wrote.


Although senior US officials claimed in May that the abuses were the acts of rogue elements in the US military, the Rolling Stone report confirms what some US soldiers under investigation have maintained – that knowledge and approval of the Abu Ghraib abuses reached top levels of the US military and DOD.

Iraqi detainees claimed a female
soldier took many pictures of abuse 


In July 2004, the former head of the Abu Ghraib prison, Brigadier-General Janis Karpinski said interrogation methods were "taken out of her hands by higher-ranking officials, acting on orders from Washington".


Rolling Stone confirmed this.


"The files make clear that responsibility for what Taguba called 'sadistic, blatant and wanton' abuses extends to several high-ranking officers still serving in command positions," it said.


Rape and sodomy


The files used by the magazine in its article also seemed to confirm statements made in early July by The New Yorker magazine journalist Seymour Hersh, who told the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) that he knew Washington possessed tapes showing US soldiers sodomising Iraqi teenage boys.


"The boys were sodomised with the cameras rolling, and the worst part is the soundtrack, of the boys shrieking. And this is your government at war," he said.


The secret files obtained by Rolling Stone quote an Iraqi who was detained at Abu Ghraib.


Kasim Mahadi Hilas, listed as detainee number 151108, told US investigators he "witnessed a translator referred to only as Abu Hamid raping a teenage boy. He claimed the boy was in physical pain as a female [US] soldier took pictures of the rape'".


Other detainees cited in the secret files as reported by Rolling Stone list urinating on the backs of Iraqi detainees, constant beatings, and US soldiers sodomising Iraqi detainees with broom sticks and flashlights as some of the abuse that were all filmed or photographed.

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