Iraqis Tortured and abused "Sadistic Style" By US Personnel

Part 7

BCST 8/27/06
9/11 ACCOUNTABILTY Vs. "The Case For Impeachment"


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Part 8
Part 9 

Legal Docs. http://www.apfn/apfn/POW_legal_doc

53 Page Prison Abuse Report
24 Page Red Cross Report

Iraqis Abused by U.S. Personnel - Military Documents

Intelligence Interrogation
Legal Documents and punishments

US sued over records of military prisoner abuse
Thu Jun 3, 2004 04:37

US sued over records of military prisoner abuse
03.06.2004 9.35 am

NEW YORK - Civil-rights and veterans groups on Wednesday sued the United States government for what they said was illegally withholding records about American military abuse of prisoners held in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and other locations.

The suit charges that the US departments of Defence, Homeland Security, Justice and State have failed to comply with a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the groups last year. Other defendants in the suit include the FBI and CIA.

The plaintiffs are seeking records documenting torture and abuse which they said has occurred since the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US. They said that after they filed the FOIA request in October, numerous news stories and photographs have documented mistreatment of prisoners held in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"There is growing evidence that the abuse of detainees was not aberrational but systemic, that in some cases the abuse amounted to torture and resulted in death, and that senior officials either approved of the abuse or were deliberately indifferent to it," the suit said.

The suit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, The Centre For Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The groups said this is the first suit seeking to force the government to disclose these records under FOIA.

They said that the only information that has been released since their FOIA request was a set of guidelines that State Department employees are to use when answering questions from reporters about the treatment of detainees. An ACLU lawyers said the guidelines emphasised that prisoners were being treated humanely.

The groups are asking the court to order the immediate release of records about the abuse of prisoners held at Abu Ghraib and other overseas detention facilities, the deaths of detainees in US custody and the policies governing the interrogation of detainees in US custody.

They also want information about the government's "rendering," or turning over, of detainees to countries known to use torture. The FOIA request cited reports that the US is using the practice to sidestep domestic and international laws prohibiting such abuse.

"The administration's refusal to release these records in light of all we now know about rampant abuses at Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo and elsewhere is simply outrageous," Jeffrey Fogel, director of the Centre for Constitutional Rights said.

"The American public has a right to know what was condoned, by whom, and how far up the chain of command it went."


Michael Moore's Farenheit 9/11 to open in US on June 25

Michael Moore's controversial documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 will open in US theaters June 25. The film, a stinging indictment of President Bush and his response to the September 11 terrorist attacks, will be handled by three distributors: Lions Gate, IFC and the Fellowship Adventure Group, the latter a new company created by Harvey and Bob Weinstein. Last Friday, the brothers bought all rights to Fahrenheit 9/11 for a reported $6 million from the Walt Disney Co., which had forbidden them from distributing the documentary through their Miramax Films division, a Disney subsidiary.

The San Francisco Chronicle [US], 2 June 2004 click for article

Back to Iraq: Army Expands Orders Halting Scheduled Discharges



Red Cross report: Pentagon ignored warnings
‘Physical, psychological coercion ... standard operating procedures’
By Andrea Mitchell
NBC News
Updated: 8:12 p.m. ET May 10, 2004A former Iraqi prisoner, Hashim Yasin, detainee number 15227, claims he was one of the men abused at the Abu Ghraib prison. Through a translator, Yasin said, “They grabbed my wrist and forced me to perform a sexual act.”

But horror stories like Yasin’s were repeatedly ignored by American and coalition officials for more than a year, according to the International Red Cross.

The Red Cross told NBC News it made at least 29 visits to 14 separate Iraqi detention sites between March and October 2003, each time complaining in person and in writing to Coalition authority and military leaders.

“And yes, we did raise those concerns with U.S. authorities,” said Amanda Williamson of the International Red Cross.

Finally, in February, 11 months after its first complaint, the Red Cross gave a report to coalition leader Paul Bremer and Gen. Rick Sanchez, and warned that “physical and psychological coercion ... appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures … to obtain confessions and extract information” at Abu Ghraib.”

Read full Red Cross report (.pdf)

This despite President George W. Bush’s promise last year that Iraqi prisoners would be treated properly, as he expected Americans to be treated.

Bush had said in March: “I expect them to be treated, the POWs, I expect to be treated humanely, just like we’re treating the prisoners that we have captured humanely. If not, the people who mistreat the prisoners will be treated as war criminals.”

U.S. officials say the White House and Pentagon ignored repeated warnings from Bremer and from U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell.

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said, “It was only when the pictures made them irrefutable that they then began to take action.”

Monday night, Amnesty International also accused the British government of killing prisoners at Camp Bucca, near Basra. Despite months of Red Cross warnings, Monday, British Prime Minister Tony Blair said no one told him.

“These are things that we only knew of in the last few days,” said Blair.

Monday night, the Red Cross says as many as 90 percent of the prisoners had been arrested by mistake and that Saddam Hussein’s top officials were systematically abused.

2004 MSNBC Interactive


Red Cross: Iraq abuse ‘tantamount to torture’
Agency says U.S. was repeatedly given details of mistreatment
The Associated Press
Updated: 7:51 p.m. ET May 10, 2004GENEVA - Intelligence officers of the U.S.-led coalition in Iraq estimated that 70 percent to 90 percent of Iraqi detainees were arrested by mistake, the Red Cross said in a report that was disclosed Monday, and Red Cross observers witnessed U.S. officers mistreating Abu Ghraib prisoners by keeping them naked in total darkness in empty cells.

Abuse was, “in some cases, tantamount to torture,” it said.

The report supports allegations by the International Committee of the Red Cross that abuse of prisoners by U.S. soldiers was broad and “not individual acts” — contrary to President Bush’s contention that the mistreatment “was the wrongdoing of a few.”

The report said “high-value detainees” were singled out for special mistreatment. It did not specify them, but The Associated Press has learned that they included some of the 55 top officials in former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s regime who were named in a deck of playing cards given to troops.

“Since June 2003, over 100 ‘high-value detainees’ have been held for nearly 23 hours a day in strict solitary confinement in small concrete cells devoid of daylight,” the report said.

“ICRC delegates directly witnessed and documented a variety of methods used to secure the cooperation of the persons deprived of their liberty with their interrogators,” according to the confidential report.

Immediate explanation sought
The delegates saw in October how detainees at Abu Ghraib were kept “completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness,” the report said.

• Red Cross warned U.S.
May 10: U.S. officials said the White House and the Pentagon ignored repeated warnings from Iraqi administrator L. Paul Bremer and Secretary of State Colin Powell. NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reports.
Nightly News

“Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its visits and requested an explanation from the authorities,” it said. “The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was ‘part of the process.’ ”

This apparently meant that detainees were progressively given clothing, bedding, lighting and other items in exchange for cooperation, it said.

The report said investigators found evidence supporting prisoners’ allegations of other forms of abuse during arrest, initial detention and interrogation, including burns, bruises and other injuries.

The 24-page document, which the Red Cross confirmed as authentic after it was published Monday by The Wall Street Journal, said the abuses took place primarily during the interrogation stage by military intelligence. Once the detainees were moved to regular prison facilities, the abuses typically stopped, it said.

Full Text
Red Cross report on Iraqi prisons (PDF)

The report said some abuses were “tantamount to torture,” including brutality, hooding, humiliation and threats of “imminent execution.”

“These methods of physical and psychological coercion were used by the military intelligence in a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information and other forms of cooperation from persons who had been arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or deemed to have an ‘intelligence value.’ ”

The agency alleged that arrests tended to follow a pattern.

“Arresting authorities entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching the rest of the house and further breaking doors, cabinets and other property,” the report said.

“Sometimes they arrested all adult males present in a house, including elderly, handicapped or sick people,” it said.

“Treatment often included pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles.”

It said some coalition military intelligence officers estimated that “between 70 percent and 90 percent of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake. They also attributed the brutality of some arrests to the lack of proper supervision of battle group units.”


Mistreatment Of Detainees Went Beyond Guards' Abuse
Ex-Prisoners, Red Cross Cite Flawed Arrests, Denial of Rights
By Rajiv Chandrasekaran and Scott Wilson
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 11, 2004; Page A01

BAGHDAD, May 10 -- Problems in the U.S.-run detention system in Iraq extended beyond physical mistreatment in prison cellblocks, involving thousands of arrests without evidence of wrongdoing and abuse of suspects starting from the moment of detention, according to former prisoners, Iraqi lawyers, human rights advocates and the International Committee for the Red Cross.

U.S.-led forces routinely rounded up Iraqis and then denied or restricted their rights under the Geneva Conventions during months of confinement, including rights to legal representation and family visits, the sources said.

In a report in February, the Red Cross stated that some military intelligence officers estimated that 70 percent to 90 percent of "the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq had been arrested by mistake." Of the 43,000 Iraqis who have been imprisoned at some point during the occupation, only about 600 have been referred to Iraqi authorities for prosecution, according to U.S. officials.

The Red Cross study, posted Monday on the Wall Street Journal's Web site, concludes that the arrest and detention practices employed by U.S.-led forces in Iraq "are prohibited under International Humanitarian Law."

Now, facing international outcry over photographs of prisoner abuse less than two months before the planned handover of sovereignty to an interim Iraqi government on June 30, U.S. officials plan to dramatically reduce the number of Iraqis in military custody, from more than 8,000 to fewer than 2,000, according to people with knowledge of the issue. The release will send legions of prisoners, many of them angry and hardened by their incarceration, home to Sunni Muslim-dominated parts of north-central Iraq where resistance to the U.S. occupation has been fiercest.

American detention tactics have turned Iraqis such as Satae Qusay, a kebab chef, against an occupation they once supported. Qusay said he was arrested in June while visiting the house of his brother, a former low-ranking Baath Party official, and did not see an attorney during his subsequent three-month detention in a fog-bound prison camp in the southern city of Umm Qasr. There, he said, he was forced to endure a shower of soldiers' tobacco juice, eat food off a dirty floor and urinate on himself when he was prohibited from using bathrooms.

"They freed us from an oppressor," said Qusay, 40. "But now I think they came to laugh at us."

Prisoners and relatives of detainees interviewed for this article produced prison release papers, Red Cross visitation documents or identification bracelets as evidence of incarceration over the past year. The descriptions of abuse during arrest or imprisonment could not be independently verified.

The focus on abuse inside the Abu Ghraib prison and other U.S.-run detention facilities has obscured broader problems that began well before Iraqis arrived at the facilities , according to lawyers and rights advocates.

Excessive Force

The 24-page Red Cross report describes a pattern of excessive force used by U.S. soldiers during raids at homes or businesses, frequently occurring after midnight. The Red Cross wrote that "ill-treatment during capture was frequent" and that it often included "pushing people around, insulting, taking aim with rifles, punching and kicking and striking with rifles."

Such tactics, which "seemed to reflect a usual modus operandi," the Red Cross report says, "appeared to go beyond the reasonable, legitimate and proportional use of force required to apprehend suspects or restrain persons resisting arrest or capture."

Most of the time, according to an assertion contained in the report and corroborated by former prisoners, U.S. soldiers arrested all the men found in a suspect's house. Most of those detained, judging by a sample of prisoners and their descriptions of fellow inmates, have been young to middle-aged men from Baghdad and the Sunni Triangle, the area north and west of the capital that is the heart of the anti-occupation resistance.

Ahmed Moeff Khatab, a 32-year-old plumber, said he was getting a shave in his local barbershop in Baghdad's Adhamiya neighborhood on Nov. 11 when a group of soldiers in U.S. military uniforms entered carrying AK-47s. Red-and-white scarves covered their faces, he said.

"They pulled me from the shop and put me in a Nissan pickup," said Khatab, who said the men spoke English and accused him of being a member of former president Saddam Hussein's paramilitary forces. "They threw me face down, then blindfolded me and handcuffed me."

He said he did not know where he was taken because the soldiers did not remove his blindfold. They started beating him with pipes, he said, starting on his legs and back, then moving to his head.

"I was bleeding from my mouth and my ears," he said. "I fainted. When I woke up I was in a dog's cage" set in a courtyard of a local military base.

Naked in a Cage

Khatab said he was left naked in the cage for several days, receiving only scant food and water, until the soldiers hung him from a tree by his cuffed hands. "They told me they would bring my wife and hang her next to me," he said.

According to his release papers, Khatab was taken to Abu Ghraib, where he was held for four months before being released without an explanation. His two brothers are still in the prison, he said.

When U.S. forces rolled into Iraq in March 2003, there were few plans in place for dealing with the long-term detention of Iraqis, according to U.S. officials. Military trucks hauled coils of razor wire, which were used to create makeshift holding pens and jails on American bases.

The following month, after Hussein's government fell and Iraqi security forces effectively dissolved, U.S. troops found themselves responsible for detaining common criminals as well as senior members of Hussein's government. American detention centers, particularly a tent camp at Baghdad's airport, filled with looters, carjackers and thieves.

"The Iraqi system was totally destroyed," said New Jersey Superior Court Judge Donald F. Campbell, who served as the occupation authority's senior adviser to Iraq's Justice Ministry from April to September. "There were virtually no cells to hold Iraqis within their system when we arrived."

As guerrilla assaults on U.S. forces increased last summer, the U.S.-run jails were further swollen by Iraqis suspected of conducting or aiding attacks. By the early fall, there were thousands of these security detainees in U.S. custody.

They were held under the fourth Geneva Convention, which allows an occupying power, "for imperative reasons of security," to intern people deemed a risk to national stability. Unlike ordinary criminals, who are supposed to face trial in an Iraqi court, security detainees have generally not been granted access to attorneys. Instead, their continued detention is subject to the determination of a special panel composed of representatives of the U.S. military command's judge advocate general's office and the CIA, according to a person familiar with the process.

Under the Geneva Convention, detainees have the right to appeal and their detention should be reviewed every six months, but it is not known whether such practices were followed; U.S. military officials have not commented on the decision-making process, which occurs in secret.

"The system is not fair at all," said Malik Dohan, the president of the Iraqi Bar Association. "Aside from the question of torture, people are being held for long periods of time without having their cases reviewed by a court."

Although anguished relatives of security detainees often hire lawyers in the hope of obtaining a release, the lawyers have little recourse. "I have no solution," said Rajaa Shemari, an attorney for 13 security detainees. "Nobody knows the procedure. The lawyer has no role in these cases."

'A Secret Court'

The occupation authority set up a special court, the Central Criminal Court of Iraq, in July to try some of the security detainees. But the court has moved slowly, completing only 87 investigations so far, according to a Defense Department report.

The court itself, located in a building that used to be a museum of Hussein's memorabilia, is closed to the public. A reporter who tried to enter was turned away twice by guards. "You cannot go in," one guard said. "Only lawyers and witnesses are permitted."

"This is just like the days of Saddam," said Khalid Saadi Awad, who wanted to enter the building to see whether his cousin was on trial. "The Americans have established a secret court."

Daniel Senor, a spokesman for the occupation authority, said the court is supposed to be open and attributed the closure to "an overzealous Iraqi security team." On most days, he said, "trials are open to the public for full viewing."

Shemari and other lawyers said they also faced difficulties in handling the cases of suspected criminals. Although Iraqi judges are supposed to adjudicate their cases, coordination problems between Iraqi courts and American-run prisons -- the former tracks prisoners by name and the latter by number -- mean that many detainees are never brought before a judge, the lawyers said.

"Where's the justice here?" said Nabil Abadi, an attorney for two non-security detainees. "The simplest right of a prisoner is to have a lawyer and to be brought before a judge. The Americans don't even allow this."

Human rights advocates here said the U.S. military and occupation authority took important steps in November to improve the system by opening neighborhood centers where families could get basic information about detained relatives.

But the idea lost much of its impact because U.S. officials failed to advertise the location of the centers, nine of which are open in Baghdad today. In addition, human rights workers say, U.S. officials faced a number of difficulties arising from language barriers that kept families from finding out the status of detained relatives, many of whom had simply disappeared.

Hania Mufti, an investigator for Human Rights Watch, said U.S. officials posted the names of detainees in English, so few families were able to read them. Furthermore, she said, rendering Arabic names into English led to many spelling inconsistencies that prevented families from locating sons and husbands on lists.

Visitation Rights Denied

The result, according to the Red Cross report, was that many prisoners were denied visitation rights. "The uncaring behavior of the CF [coalition forces] and their inability to quickly provide accurate information on persons deprived of their liberty for the families concerned seriously affects the image of the Occupying Powers among the Iraqi population," the report concludes.

Khulud Abdulwahab, 56, watched last August as U.S. troops hauled away her son and two nephews from their home in the town of Khalis in the Sunni Triangle. A former soldier in the Iraqi army, Harith, her son, was picked up based on information provided by a paid informer who told soldiers he was a member of the resistance.

Convinced of her son's innocence, Abdulwahab quit her job as an elementary school mathematics teacher to devote herself full time to securing his release. In April, she said, she believed she had nearly done so.

After petitioning the local Army base for help, Abdulwahab received a letter from the unit that arrested him stating that the men were wrongly accused. Written on Department of the Army stationery, it says the informer "is currently being tried in Iraqi courts in Khalis for bearing false witness."

"This false witness was the sole information used to detain the prisoner," says the letter, signed by the unit's executive officer. "All these men are innocent of the crimes they are accused of."

Since then, Abdulwahab has made the 400-mile journey by taxi to the Army's bleak prison camp in Umm Qasr five times, at a cost of about $100 per trip. And each time she has been rebuffed by prison guards, many of them Kuwaitis and Egyptians, who she said treat her with contempt.

"They told me this is no good, they won't work with this paper, and that I should just throw it away," Abdulwahab said. "I just want them to release my son from this heat and humiliation."

2004 The Washington Post Company


Military Times
Military newspaper blames Rumsfeld, Myers
Tue May 11, 2004 02:10

Military newspaper blames Rumsfeld, Myers for "professional negligence"

Published: May 17, 2004

Editorial: A failure of leadership at the highest levels

Around the halls of the Pentagon, a term of caustic derision has emerged for the enlisted soldiers at the heart of the furor over the Abu Ghraib prison scandal: the six morons who lost the war.

Indeed, the damage done to the U.S. military and the nation as a whole by the horrifying photographs of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees at the notorious prison is incalculable.

But the folks in the Pentagon are talking about the wrong morons.

There is no excuse for the behavior displayed by soldiers in the now-infamous pictures and an even more damning report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba. Every soldier involved should be ashamed.

But while responsibility begins with the six soldiers facing criminal charges, it extends all the way up the chain of command to the highest reaches of the military hierarchy and its civilian leadership.

The entire affair is a failure of leadership from start to finish. >From the moment they are captured, prisoners are hooded, shackled and isolated. The message to the troops: Anything goes.

In addition to the scores of prisoners who were humiliated and demeaned, at least 14 have died in custody in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Army has ruled at least two of those homicides. This is not the way a free people keeps its captives or wins the hearts and minds of a suspicious world.

How tragically ironic that the American military, which was welcomed to Baghdad by the euphoric Iraqi people a year ago as a liberating force that ended 30 years of tyranny, would today stand guilty of dehumanizing torture in the same Abu Ghraib prison used by Saddam Hussein’s henchmen.

One can only wonder why the prison wasn’t razed in the wake of the invasion as a symbolic stake through the heart of the Baathist regime.

Army commanders in Iraq bear responsibility for running a prison where there was no legal adviser to the commander, and no ultimate responsibility taken for the care and treatment of the prisoners.

Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs, also shares in the shame. Myers asked “60 Minutes II” to hold off reporting news of the scandal because it could put U.S. troops at risk. But when the report was aired, a week later, Myers still hadn’t read Taguba’s report, which had been completed in March. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld also failed to read the report until after the scandal broke in the media.

By then, of course, it was too late.

Myers, Rumsfeld and their staffs failed to recognize the impact the scandal would have not only in the United States, but around the world.

If their staffs failed to alert Myers and Rumsfeld, shame on them. But shame, too, on the chairman and secretary, who failed to inform even President Bush.

He was left to learn of the explosive scandal from media reports instead of from his own military leaders.

On the battlefield, Myers’ and Rumsfeld’s errors would be called a lack of situational awareness — a failure that amounts to professional negligence.

To date, the Army has moved to court-martial the six soldiers suspected of abusing Iraqi detainees and has reprimanded six others.

Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who commanded the MP brigade that ran Abu Ghraib, has received a letter of admonishment and also faces possible disciplinary action.

That’s good, but not good enough.

This was not just a failure of leadership at the local command level. This was a failure that ran straight to the top. Accountability here is essential — even if that means relieving top leaders from duty in a time of war.

— Military Times editorial, May 17 issue

Red Cross Details Iraqi Prisoner "Torture"
February report describes brutal U.S. interrogation tactics


Boy, 16, 'was subjected to mock execution by US interrogators'
By Justin Huggler in Baghdad
10 May 2004

American soldiers subjected a 16-year-old Iraqi prisoner to a mock execution inside an American detention centre and made his brothers watch, one of the brothers alleged yesterday.

Husam Mahawish told The Independent he was forced to watch as an American soldier put a handgun to his younger brother Mohammed's forehead and pulled the trigger. "I thought he was going to kill Mohammed," Mr Mahawish said. "But instead there was a click. There was no bullet."

Mr Mahawish, claims he and his three brothers were beaten, given electric shocks, forced to stand under cold water and forced to kneel for hours on end under American interrogation. They were questioned about their father, Abed Hamad, but they did not know he had given himself up to US forces three days after they were captured. After the torture came five months of detention without charge. When they were released in March, the brothers discovered their father's body had been delivered to the local hospital by US soldiers. They claim it showed signs of torture.

Theirs is one particularly disturbing account out of a huge number of stories of abuse by American soldiers in Iraqi prisons that have emerged since the publication of photographs showing soldiers humiliating naked Iraqi detainees in Abu Ghraib prison.

There is no way of confirming Mr Mahawish's allegations, and some Iraqis have been accused of fabricating accounts of abuse in US detention since the Abu Ghraib photographs appeared. Mr Mahawish has American prison identity papers which give his identity number as US91Z-154300CI -- CI stands for "civilian internee". His name is given incorrectly on the papers as "Hasan Mahawish". He also has photographs of his father's body which show extensive bruising.

The four brothers - Husam, 27, Arkan, 22, Qusay, 20, and Mohammed, 16 - were arrested by US forces in their home town of Al-Qaim on 26 October last year, Mr Mahawish says. "The Americans came to our house. They were looking for my father but they did not find him, so they took us instead," he says. The family is Sunni but Mr Mahawish claims neither the brothers nor their father had anything to do with the Sunni insurgency. All four brothers have been released.

They were held at Tiger Base, a local American camp, for two weeks, then transferred to Baghdadi air base, in Anbar province - not to be confused with Baghdad international airport - where they were interrogated.

During five sessions of interrogation, Mr Mahawish claims he and his brothers were stripped to their underwear. He has a broken tooth which he claims is the result of severe beating and claims interrogators used an electric baton on the back of his neck that gave him a shock which knocked him unconscious for five minutes.

He claims the questioning revolved around their father, with interrogators repeatedly demanding to know where he was, despite the fact that he had surrendered to US forces three days after they were arrested.

Mr Mahawish describes Arkan being tied with his arms and legs together behind his back in an excruciatingly painful position known as the "scorpion", for an hour at a time. He and the others were forced to remain kneeling for two to three hours at a time.

But his most disturbing allegations concern his 16-year-old brother Mohammed. "Throughout the questioning, it was Mohammed who got the worst treatment," he says.

One of the interrogators put a handgun to Mohammed's head. "He said: 'If you don't tell us where your father is I will shoot him'," says Mr Mahawish. "After 15 minutes, he said 'I will come back and kill him tomorrow if you don't tell us'." The next day the scene was repeated, but this time the interrogator pulled the trigger. The chamber was empty.

Mr Mahawish says he believed the threat was genuine because of a disturbing alleged incident that took place a few days before. The brothers had overheard what they believed was a prisoner being shot dead by interrogators in the cell next door.

"I can't remember his name, he was in a cell next door with completely closed walls," Mr Mahawish recalled. "We heard them asking who his accomplices were. He said there weren't any, then we heard shooting. About two hours later, we saw them drag the body from the cell." If this incident took place, it is possible that it was staged to frighten the brothers, particularly as the alleged mock execution took place shortly afterwards.

After five sessions of interrogation, the alleged mistreatment stopped. In the months that followed, they were transferred repeatedly from prison to prison, including a stint at Abu Ghraib. But Mr Mahawish's account is very specific, he says the alleged abuse took place only in one place, at one time - and it was not at Abu Ghraib but at the air base. He also claims that it was carried out only by interrogators, and not by the regular guards.

If his allegations are true, they would add to mounting evidence that the mistreatment of prisoners spread far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib prison, and that it was systematically used by interrogators, and not the work of a few "bad apples".

Mr Mahawish claims he was questioned by three American interrogators, together with two masked assistants who he believed from their accents were Iraqis. He remembers one of the Americans' names as a Sergeant Van, or something similar.

The brothers were released on 23 March. They discovered that the Americans had delivered their father's body to a hospital in Al-Qaim in November. The cause of death was given as a heart attack but the body was heavily bruised and had broken ribs, according to Mr Mahawish.

In the massive publicity now surrounding the prison abuses, there is a genuine risk of some Iraqis manufacturing stories of mistreatment.

Another Iraqi who took part in a press conference together with Mr Mahawish and several other former detainees was yesterday accused of lying by the conference organisers after he claimed he was sodomised by US soldiers.

Tallahassee Democrat
Posted on Mon, May. 10, 2004

Soldier: Foul photos of inmates were prized
By John Simerman


ANTIOCH, Calif. - Long before the world saw shocking photos of U.S. soldiers abusing Iraqi detainees, Sgt. Michael Sindar and other military police serving at the Abu Ghraib prison saw all they wanted of them.

Pictures of abuse and humiliation of Iraqis, taken with digital cameras, were burned onto CDs that circulated widely among prison personnel, said Sindar, 25. Peeks could be had in the chow hall.

"It was like a commodity," Sindar explained. "Whatever pictures you had, whoever had the most foul picture out there, everyone wanted to see what it was."

Brutality was also in the air. Sindar recalled a 14-year-old Iraqi with a broken arm being hurled to the ground and then mocked by U.S. soldiers as the boy wept and wet himself in the prison intake center.

He saw soldiers and officers boozing in violation of military rules, Sindar said, and watched the commander of his unit, the 870th Military Police Company, based in Pittsburg, Calif., quietly leave, accused of taking nude photos of female soldiers taking showers.

Sindar and other MPs who served at Abu Ghraib now blame weak senior officers for failing to restrain American bullies there, let alone set clear standards for treating Iraqi detainees. From the MPs' accounts, it's clear that problems at Abu Ghraib extended beyond just a few bad apples to a leadership system that failed to temper the outbursts of poorly trained and war-wearied soldiers.

"The thing with the soldiers there, they think because we're Americans, you can do whatever you want," said Spc. Ramon Leal, 25, of San Jose, Calif.

The officers "didn't have the nerve to discipline soldiers," Leal continued, "so the bad soldiers had no reason not to" misbehave.

Nothing the 870th soldiers did came close to the sordid behavior of the 320th Military Police Battalion, now at the center of the volcanic inmate-abuse scandal. The lone mention of the 870th in the Army's report on detainee abuses describes accusations against Capt. Leo Merck for the shower-photo incident.

But some among the 124 soldiers in the 870th, which included six women, lashed out at the inmates or at the crowds of visitors who gathered at the gates and refused to obey orders.

"There was a time I went to my superiors and said people are forgetting they're American soldiers," said Sgt. Joe Martin, a police sergeant in private life. "I saw people losing their temper quicker than was appropriate."

Martin said his superiors did nothing about it.

The 870th manned the entry checkpoints, perimeter towers, and towers overseeing prisoners in one of eight tent cities surrounded by razor wire. The 870th also worked the inmate-processing center, where tempers often flared.

Prisoners were often unruly, the MPs said in a series of interviews, and the guards sometimes rough. That reflected, at least in part, the stress of the work. Shifts were 12 hours long. Almost-daily mortar attacks rained down on the huge 280-acre prison, its tent compounds framed in razor wire. There was fear and frustration on both sides.

The most common mistreatment was what one officer called "stupid" verbal abuse by soldiers trying to barrel through an impenetrable language barrier. Or making inmates squat repeatedly and hold their arms up for long periods of time.

Occasionally, as with the 14-year-old boy, it turned physical, soldiers said.

"I didn't understand why we had to be so rude with these prisoners and beat the crap out of these guys," Sindar said.

Many of the detainees were angry, and some would spit at soldiers or rush them.

In one incident last year, prisoners started throwing large rocks up at the tower. One 870th soldier fired down, and a small riot led to the deaths of four inmates, said Sgt. Kelly Strong of Antioch, a company medic.

One young female soldier with the 870th was taken off a prison tower above one of the tent cities after she was caught firing a slingshot.

Strong, who treated both soldiers and Iraqi inmates for injuries, said he would watch soldiers for violent tendencies or signs of combat stress.

"You can see these guys messed up ... running up and down the halls naked, or when they're not eating, losing weight," Strong said. "There were probably 30 people that went on medication while they were over there - Prozac, Zoloft, those kind of drugs."

Alcohol was widely available: cans of vodka or bottles sent from home. Soldiers would pay translators to buy beer or whiskey. Soldiers who complained said their gripes were dismissed.

One 870th soldier started Alcoholics Anonymous meetings inside Abu Ghraib.

"A.A. meetings in the prison," mused Master Sgt. Greg Rayburn, a medic. "Obviously there was a need for it."

Strong, 50, said he found himself hitting Iraqi prisoners and recognized in himself how anger could turn into brutality.

"You get a burning in your stomach, a rush, a feeling of hot lead running through your veins, and you get a sense of power," Strong said. "Imagine wearing point-blank body armor, an M-16 and all the power in the world, and the authority of God. That power is very addictive.

"That's what happened (in the scandal). They lost their sense of compassion, their sense that all these guys are not bad. Then they started degrading human beings."

Several soldiers said they got little guidance in handling prisoners and had to figure out for themselves which inmates were hard cases and which were petty criminals.

"It was, figure it out as you go," said Spc. Jose Victor Leiva of Bay Point, Calif. "The leadership were more worried about our dress code, as opposed to the situation at Abu Ghraib, being mortared every night, having security issues. There was nothing set in place."


Sometimes They Pretended to Kill Me
Phillip Robertson
Posted 5/8/2004 5:29:00 PM

Read this article: to understand the facts behind why the Bush Administration continually attacks Al-Jazeera TV News: if you can't refute the facts, launch attacks against the messenger.

"Sometimes they pretended to kill me"

An Al-Jazeera cameraman detained and tortured at Abu Ghraib recalls beatings, threats and photos of torture victims used as screen savers on military PCs.

May 8, 2004 | BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Last Saturday, Suhaib Badr al Baz, a cameraman for Al-Jazeera, sat in the lobby of the Swan Lake Hotel and calmly described his experience being tortured by U.S. military personnel. The soft-spoken journalist's account of his 74 days in U.S. custody was deeply disturbing, and his story not only supports what is now coming to light about human rights violations in Abu Ghraib, but also adds interesting new details. Al Baz said that much of his mistreatment took place in a building at the Baghdad airport, a place where he heard the sounds of prisoners screaming for long periods of time. If his account is accurate, it means that the abuse of prisoners in Iraq is not limited to Abu Ghraib prison or a single military unit. It may well be, as military critics argue, more widespread.

Like many other prisoners of Abu Ghraib, al Baz was never charged with a crime and did not have the opportunity to defend himself before any court. As soon as he was arrested, he found himself plunged into a secretive network of American detention facilities with little connection to the outside world, a zone where human and civil rights were completely ignored. As a civilian in occupied Iraq, he should have been protected by the Geneva Conventions, but instead, al Baz became the victim of a war crime perpetrated by U.S. soldiers. Article 147 of the Fourth Geneva Convention defines war crimes as: "Willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment ... Unlawful confinement of a protected person ... willfully depriving protected person of the rights of fair and regular trial."

Al Baz, who is a single man of medium build and a slight belly, hardly presents the image of an insurgent. There is nothing threatening about him. He is not dramatic, choosing instead to make his points in a straightforward way. Al Baz never raised his voice while he was talking, and over the three days of our meetings he did not seem angry about his incarceration. In a country of furious people, al Baz did not make a political speech. We sought him out to tell his story; he did not seek the attention.

Al Baz was not an ordinary Iraqi as far as the soldiers were concerned. He works for Al-Jazeera, the Arab media network with few fans in the administration. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently excoriated Al-Jazeera's coverage of Fallujah, saying, "I can definitively say that what Al-Jazeera is doing is vicious, inaccurate and inexcusable." These comments reflect the bitter feelings the administration has toward producers of negative news about the occupation. But this bitterness is not confined to words -- the U.S. military hit Al-Jazeera buildings in both Baghdad and Kabul, Afghanistan, strikes that the network believes were intentional, though the military denies it. As Baghdad fell to American forces on April 8 last year, a bomb struck the office of the network and killed Tariq Ayoub, an Al-Jazeera cameraman. Many journalists who have covered the war for the past year believe there is a clear pattern of intimidation toward the network by the coalition. Al Baz himself believes he was singled out because of his employer. "They knew me, they had stopped me before," he said of the soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, who arrested him.

Al-Jazeera, finding itself walking on increasingly thin ice in Iraq, had a crisis on its hands with an arrested cameraman. "We believe that Suhaib was not treated in accordance with his status as a journalist in a war zone. He was released from Abu Ghraib from a period of confinement without being charged," said Jihad Ballout, a spokesman for the network in Qatar. Officials at the Coalition Press Information Center said they could not confirm al Baz's detention. When given al Baz's prison I.D. number late this week, officials said that requests for such information are taking several days to process. Capt. Mark Doggett, an Australian officer, said that the office was inundated with requests.

Al Baz was able to describe his abusers and in several cases provide names of the most brutal. These names matched the independent accounts of other prisoners who had also spent time in the prison. It also appears that some of the military personnel involved in the torture used aliases to conceal their identities from the Iraqis. A man some of the former Abu Ghraib prisoners called "Joiner" was identified in one of the published photographs as Spc. Charles A. Graner in the New York Times. Al Baz also mentioned a man called "Joiner" when talking about the worst abuses he saw at Abu Ghraib.

The cameraman's ordeal began Nov. 13 last year, when al Baz arrived at the site of a convoy attack in Samarra with his camera. U.S. soldiers stopped him and began to search his car. Al Baz said that when they found his Al-Jazeera I.D. badge, the soldiers asked him how he knew about the attack in advance, and then tied his hands behind his back. Al Baz says he arrived at the site four hours after the attack, and by that time, the entire city knew about it. Following his arrest, al Baz says that soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division took him to a U.S. military base in Samarra and interrogated him for two days.

"At the base I first saw a tall heavy man who put a black hood over my head," he recalls. "Then he forced me to stand in front of a wall for three or four hours. I was treated very roughly, then taken to a room and interrogated. When the tall man was not satisfied with my answers, he hit me in the face. They asked questions in a way that showed they were not interested in the truth." Al Baz says at first he was not given food or water, or allowed to pray. On the second day, he was given foul-smelling food. Immediately after his arrest, colleagues from the network and friends began to pressure the coalition for information but were told by Gen. Kimmit's staff that there was no information available. This is a common reply for people seeking information about recently detained people. Al Baz said it took a week for the military to issue him a prison I.D. number.

"I asked them if I could contact my family because they would be worried about me. The tall man told me to forget it, that my destiny was in Guant‡namo Bay." Al Baz said that during his time at the base, soldiers came into his cell spitting on him and screaming in his ear to keep him awake. "I didn't know if it was day or night. They tied my hands so tightly my wrists started bleeding, but at this stage I was still allowed to keep my clothes. This was a wonderful period compared to my time in Abu Ghraib."

Al Baz says that he was taken from the base in Samarra to the airport in Baghdad, where his treatment took a sharp turn for the worse. "In there I heard some horrible noises, many people screaming. They told me to sit on the floor and I went numb from the cold. If I moved my head even a little bit, a soldier would grab my hood and slam my head into the wall. Sometimes they pretended to kill me by pulling the trigger of their rifles. I found out later that they were punishing other people there." Al Baz says that he heard screams, men shouting "Good Bush, bad Saddam!" and crying out to God for help. "But it didn't do anything to decrease the punishment they were going through."

When al Baz moved to Abu Ghraib in late November, he said he was asked to strip naked at one point but was never forced to take part in staged scenes like the others. "It didn't happen like that to me," he said. But he did say that he witnessed a disturbing episode involving a father and son. From his cell, al Baz said he watched through the small window and saw two men stripped naked.

"The boy was only about 16 years old, and then a soldier poured cold water over them. Their cell was directly across from mine." Al Baz says that the father and son were made to stand naked in front of other prisoners for days.

Torturers often keep careful records; that is one of the odd but persistent features of the trade. It is never enough to destroy the captive -- there must also be proof of the victory over him, a souvenir. It is the prideful documentary urge that has undone the torturers of Abu Ghraib, although it is unlikely that the officers who sanctioned the abuse appear in the pictures. In any case, the Abu Ghraib prisoners were well aware that they were being photographed.

"I first knew that they were taking pictures when I saw that one of the computers had a picture of some prisoners as its desktop background. One of the prisoners had a black hood over his head and he was covered in cold water. I personally witnessed this event take place. The man was screaming, "I'm innocent!" until he got sick and his body got swollen from all the punishment," al Baz said. Cold water, solitary confinement, swollen bodies and constant psychological abuse are recurring images for the Al-Jazeera cameraman, who also credits his tormentors with ingenuity. "They had all different kinds of punishments and they changed them all the time. I begged them to interrogate me again so they would know that I was innocent, but they said no, that's it. All we know is that you're staying here."

The cameraman was released from Abu Ghraib in late January of this year. Since then he has returned to work for Al-Jazeera. On Friday afternoon, al Baz said, "I have one request, please don't concentrate so much on my story. There are still many people left in Abu Ghraib."

The day before I interviewed Suhaib al Baz, I drove out to Abu Ghraib prison and found a small crowd of people waiting to talk to their relatives. A year earlier, I visited the prison with a poet named Hamid al Mokhtar who spent eight years there under Saddam. When we walked out the front gates, there were still half-buried bodies in the ground. I asked him what should be done with the place and Mokhtar replied, "They should tear it down and not leave a single brick." I returned to find that it had been reincarnated -- it was a gulag again.

I saw a crowd standing outside in the furnace heat of the sun, holding slips of paper with numbers written on them. One old man, Hardan Soud, had a slip of paper with seven numbers written on it, and he wanted to know when the Americans would release his sons. "They came to my house in Thuluaya at 2 a.m., pushing down the door to enter my house. They didn't speak or ask any questions, and they took away my sons. I still don't know why."

Hardan Soud was waiting by the prison to see if the soldiers would allow him to visit the men. We stood there with him for a few hours and like many others he was not allowed inside. A translator eventually came out and said there would be no visits for a week and that everyone must leave. The crowd roiled when it heard the news, because the hope was kicked out of them. Eventually, they drifted back to battered taxis and drove away.

Abu Ghraib is a strange new place in its rebirth, but there is still the same feeling of dread and anguish that emanates from the walls. Even when it is empty, this is true. I remember this from the last visit a year ago, which ended in a room with a row of nooses. It was a vile place, and one condemned man had written, "Please God give me mercy because I didn't get mercy from Saddam." The U.S. military has not been able to erase the radiation of accumulated suffering; they have only made the place more modern, cleaner looking. But we know that is only an appearance. It is the same place it always was.

After speaking to the relatives of the imprisoned men, we walked to the Marines guarding the checkpoint for the prison and they turned us away. I asked to speak to a public affairs officer. The Marines refused.

It was nearly a week later when I first heard American soldiers talking about the pictures coming out of the prison. I had flown with an air ambulance crew to the 421st Medevac Battalion from Baghdad in one of their helicopters, a Black Hawk with four stretchers inside. During the day, we flew two missions over the tan expanse north of Baghdad, which quickly turns into wide palm groves where fighters hide with their rocket launchers. When the crews weren't flying, they went back up to Taji, a base about eight minutes north of the Green Zone by Black Hawk.

The pilots and medics of the 421st were watching the news in Taji on Tuesday and the pictures everyone has seen by now were up on the screen, and the crews were sickened by them. On a long couch, a row of six men watched the TV in silence until 1st Lt. Jerry Murphy said, "It is so sad to be betrayed like this, because when someone's fundamental dignity is taken from them, there's nothing left." Lt. Murphy seemed to feel betrayed by the soldiers involved in the abuse at the prison, that they had betrayed the good things they were trying to do in Iraq.

The medevac crews are working the other side of the war, the human side, which is perfectly OK with them. The 421st flies wounded people to the combat support hospital in Baghdad from wherever the accident or shooting went down. Everyone at the 421st explained their job in the same way: "It doesn't matter who they are. We don't care. The deal is that we pick up patients and take care of them." The pilots will land their Black Hawks on roadsides to pick up wounded soldiers; they land in firefights. The crews take civilians and people from both sides of the war.

Insurgents shoot them down despite the red cross clearly painted on the undercarriage of the aircraft. They respond to medical emergencies at the prison all the time because Abu Ghraib is in their territory. I wanted to know what sort of injuries they had seen, whether they had taken out patients who were the victims of abuse and possibly torture. I didn't get the details. Instead we sat and watched the news reports on the medevac TV, sullen and hypnotized, saying nothing.

As I write, Rumsfeld is before Congress trying to explain how U.S. forces could do such things. Many of the journalists in Baghdad think that this will surely finish him off, that it's only a matter of time. I watched Bush give his apology last night, but it all seems too late. The revelations of torture in Iraq by U.S. soldiers have pushed the country through a bloody and bruised event horizon. There is no apology that can bring us back.


May 10, 2004
The Israeli Torture Template
Rape, Feces and Urine-Dipped Cloth Sacks



Clues about worse photos and videos of abuse may be found in Israeli files about similar abuse of Palestinian and other Arab prisoners. In March 2000, a lawyer for a Lebanese prisoner kidnapped in 1994 by the Israelis in Lebanon claimed that his client had been subjected to torture, including rape. The type of compensation offered by Rumsfeld in his testimony has its roots in cases of Israeli torture of Arabs. In the case of the Lebanese man, said to have been raped by his Israeli captors, his lawyer demanded compensation of $1.47 million. The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel documented the types of torture meted out on Arab prisoners. Many of the tactics coincide with those contained in the Taguba report: beatings and prolonged periods handcuffed to furniture. In an article in the December 1998 issue of The Progressive, Rabbi Lynn Gottlieb reported on the treatment given to a 23-year old Palestinian held on "administrative detention." The prisoner was "cuffed behind a chair 17 hours a day for 120 days . . . [he] had his head covered with a sack, which was often dipped in urine or feces. Guards played loud music right next to his ears and frequently taunted him with threats of physical and sexual violence." If additional photos and videos document such practices, the Bush administration and the American people have, indeed, "seen nothing yet."



(Excerpt) -

The Geneva Convention:

Article 17

No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war to secure from them information of any kind whatever. Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind.

Geneva Convention relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War

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