US to review abuse of Iraqi journalists

The Pentagon may reopen an investigation into charges by four Iraqi journalists that they were abused at a US military base in Iraq.

The journalists were told they would be sent to Guantanamo
The journalists were told they would be sent to Guantanamo

“We are looking into the case to determine whether further review is necessary,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said when asked about the January incident in which the four from Reuters and NBC were arrested near the site of a US helicopter crash and taken to a base near Falluja.

His comment on Thursday came weeks after the US military issued two reports accusing US troops of abusing Iraqi prisoners at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad last year.

Reuters welcomed the Pentagon move, first reported by The New York Times, saying that the defence department earlier indicated the matter was closed after a US military investigation cleared troops of any wrongdoing.

NBC also welcomed the Whitman statement.

Sexually abused

The three Reuters journalists said in May that they were beaten by US forces and subjected to sexual abuse and religious taunts and humiliation during their detention in the camp near Falluja.

Sexual abuse also occurred at the Abu Ghraib prison facility

Sexual abuse also occurred at the
Abu Ghraib prison facility

An Iraqi journalist working for US television network NBC, who was arrested with the Reuters staff, said he had been beaten and mistreated.

“We would welcome a reinvestigation and hope that it is complete, objective and thorough,” said Reuters spokeswoman Susan Allsopp in London. “The earlier indication to us was that the matter was closed.”

“We’ve been frustrated by the lack of action by the military on this and we welcome any move to look into it further,” said NBC vice-president Bill Wheatley in New York.   

The Reuters journalists first told Reuters of the ordeal after their release, but only decided to make it public in May when the US military said there was no evidence they had been abused, and following the exposure of similar mistreatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib.

Humiliating acts

Two of the three Reuters staff said they had been forced to perform humiliating acts and were forced to put shoes in their mouths. 

All three – Baghdad-based cameraman Salam Uraibi, Falluja-based freelance television journalist Ahmad Muhammad Hussain al-Badrani and driver Sattar Jabar al-Badrani – were arrested on 2 January and released three days later without being charged.

NBC stringer Ali Muhammad Hussain Ali al-Badrani was detained along with the Reuters staff.

The Reuters journalists said they were forced to make demeaning gestures as soldiers laughed, taunted them and took photographs. They said they did not want to make details public earlier because of the degrading nature of the abuse.

Threats of Guantanamo

The soldiers told them they would be taken to the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, deprived them of sleep, placed bags over their heads, kicked and hit them and forced them to remain in stress positions for long periods.

Sanchez had concluded that thefirst investigation was objective

Sanchez had concluded that the
first investigation was objective

Lieutenant-General Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in Iraq, said in a letter dated 5 March that he was confident the investigation had been “thorough and objective” and its findings were sound.

Reuters global managing editor David Schlesinger has asked the Pentagon to review the military’s findings about the incident in light of the scandal over the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

A defence official, who asked not to be identified, said on Tuesday the Pentagon was looking into “the adequacy” of the military investigation.

Source : Reuters

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