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US charges ex-Abu Ghraib officer

Abu Ghraib prison

The US military has charged the former head of the interrogation centre at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison over the abuse of Iraqi detainees.

Lt-Col Steven Jordan has been charged with seven offences including maltreatment of prisoners.

He is the highest ranking officer to face criminal charges over events at the prison.

Ten lower-ranking soldiers have already been convicted for abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib from 2003 to 2004.

Two officers more senior than Lt-Col Jordan have been disciplined by the army over the scandal, but neither faced criminal charges.

Failure to supervise

Lt-Col Jordan was in charge of the Joint Interrogation and Debriefing Centre at the prison during the second half of 2003.

A document released by the military detailed 12 counts relating to the seven separate charges.

It says Lt-Col Jordan maltreated prisoners by subjecting them "to forced nudity and intimidation by military working dogs".

It also accuses him of dereliction of duty in failing to train and supervise soldiers to meet military requirements on interrogation, which "resulted in the abuse of Iraqi detainees".

Other charges include wrongful interference with an investigation and making false official statements to investigators probing the abuse allegations.

A preliminary hearing will be held when Lt-Col Jordan's defence team have had time to prepare, but no date has been set yet, the US military said.

Picture from SBS TV in Australia showing dog and
                                    Abu Ghraib prisoner

The issue of Abu Ghraib came to light in April 2004 after images emerged of US troops abusing prisoners. The footage included naked prisoners placed in humiliating positions and detainees cowering from aggressive dogs.

The BBC's Jonathan Beale says while human rights groups have welcomed the decision to prosecute a senior officer, they see this as just a first step.

There is still anger that no-one in the administration has taken responsibility for the abuses, our correspondent says.

US probes Iraqi prisoner deaths

Handcuffed Iraqi prisoners

A top US commander has ordered an inquiry into the deaths of three Iraqi prisoners in military custody.

The three died in early May while being held by coalition forces in Salahuddin province, north of Baghdad.

The probe was triggered by soldiers who raised suspicions about the deaths, said Lt Gen Peter W Chiarelli, head of multinational forces in Iraq.

It is the latest in a series of inquiries into the alleged abuse or killing of Iraqis by coalition forces.

'Suspicious deaths'

A statement by Gen Chiarelli released by the US army said the investigation would examine the "circumstances surrounding the deaths of three males in coalition force custody in southern Salaheddin province on or about 9 May 2006".

"The request for an investigation is the result of soldiers' reported suspicions about the deaths," he said, without giving further details.

The criminal investigation comes just weeks after a US military probe cleared US troops of any wrongdoing in the deaths of an Iraqi family in the town of Ishaqi in March.

On Friday, the US military said a probe into an alleged massacre at Haditha in November had been completed and was being reviewed by Gen Chiarelli.

Another investigation is being held into claims that an Iraqi man was deliberately killed in April in Hamandiya - and that the circumstances were covered up.

The US marine corps is also investigating a video which allegedly shows a marine singing a song about Iraqi civilians being killed by insurgents.

Government Authenticates Photos From Abu Ghraib

 

Nearly two years after graphic photographs of detainee abuse at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq were published worldwide, the U.S. government yesterday for the first time authenticated 74 of the images as being part of the original compact disc that was turned over to Army investigators in January 2004.

Responding to a federal court order as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union in New York, Justice Department lawyers wrote in court papers that the previously published images "are identical" to those that investigators have used to look into abuse at the prison. Included among the images are such photos as Pvt. Lynndie R. England holding a leash attached to a naked detainee's neck, a detainee with female underwear placed on his head, detainees shackled to cell doors and beds in painful positions, and others piled in a naked pyramid. The iconic photograph of a detainee standing on a cardboard box, cloaked and hooded with wires coming from his hands, is also among the pictures.

The government, however, did not authenticate numerous photographs of soldiers using dogs to intimidate detainees, though military prosecutors have used such images in open court while pursuing cases against the soldiers.

Many of the photos, or representative samples of them, have been published in The Washington Post and on washingtonpost.com over the past two years. Salon.com, an Internet magazine, recently published the photographs on its Web site after obtaining what appeared to be the Army's compilation of abuse photos used to prosecute low-ranking soldiers. The government also authenticated three short video clips. The original disc was given to Army investigators by a soldier concerned by the abuse that he saw in photos.

Avoiding an actual government release of the images, Justice Department lawyers instead authenticated photographs that were already up on the Salon Web site, using court papers to refer to the images by number. ACLU lawyers were also provided with one additional photograph -- which appears to be two detainees with their arms around each other and their faces edited out of the image -- and the government declined to provide an additional 29 photographs that ACLU lawyers said they are going to fight to see.

None of the photographs the government authenticated indicates any unknown instances of abuse. Hundreds of other photos -- seized from soldiers' computers in Iraq -- appear to show abuse but have not been authenticated by U.S. officials.

"Our aim was to get this information into the public domain, and the government's attempts at withholding this information have proved futile," said Amrit Singh, an ACLU lawyer pursuing the lawsuit. "This is a victory for us because information to which the public is entitled has been released into the public domain. The government has fought this tooth and nail."

Defense Department officials, including top generals, have opposed releasing the images, arguing that they could set off major unrest in Muslim nations. The images a federal judge in New York ordered the government to release, it turns out, largely were the same images that already have been published.

US jails 'shackle pregnant women'
 
The US must stop shackling pregnant female prisoners when they are giving birth, Amnesty International has said.

"The routine use of restraints on pregnant women... [is] a cruel and unusual practice that can rarely be justified," the group said in a report.

Only one state currently bans leg irons on female inmates while they are being taken to hospital during labour.

US government policy urges measures to ensure foetuses are not harmed if a pregnant prisoner is restrained.

Though these are pregnant women, they are still convicted felons, and sometimes violent
Dina Tyler, Arkansas Department of Corrections

The New York Times described the case of one pregnant inmate whose legs were allegedly shackled together during 12 hours of labour, despite requests by a doctor and two nurses that she not be restrained.

"The doctor who was delivering the baby made them remove the shackles for the actual delivery at the very end," lawyer Cathleen Compton told the newspaper.

Shawanna Nelson had been jailed in Arkansas for identity fraud and writing bad cheques. She gave birth in 2003 at age 30, the newspaper said.

She is suing the prison and Correctional Medical Services, claiming she suffers ongoing back pain and damage to her sciatic nerve because she was largely unable to move during her labour.

The defendants deny having harmed Ms Nelson, the New York Times said, citing court papers.

Arkansas defends its policy.

"Though these are pregnant women, they are still convicted felons, and sometimes violent in nature," Dina Tyler, a spokeswoman for the Arkansas Department of Corrections, told the newspaper.

"There have been instances when we've had a female inmate try to hurt hospital staff during delivery."

Prosecution for rape

Amnesty also called for new laws that would cut down on the sexual abuse of women in prison.

"Statutes should bar sexual contact between staff and inmates and leave no room for exceptions," Amnesty said in Abuse of Women in Custody: Sexual Misconduct and Shackling of Pregnant Women.

The human rights group carried out a survey of law and practice in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and the US Bureau of Prisons.

Each state makes its own regulations on how prisoners are treated in its correctional facilities.

Amnesty found that not a single state had laws covering all six areas it considered essential for protecting prisoners from sexual misconduct.

It recommendations include:

  • Forbidding sexual relations between inmates and prison staff. Six states do not have laws barring them

  • Banning all forms of sexual abuse, including threats

  • Ensuring that laws designed to prevent abuse apply to all staff and contractors working at all correctional facilities and locations

  • Making it impossible to hold an inmate criminally liable for engaging in sexual conduct. At least one state has laws under which a prisoner can be charged for being raped.

It also proposes that female prisoners be guarded only by female officers and that pat-down searches of women be carried out only by women.

Report probes US custody deaths

Prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in October
                                    2005

Almost 100 prisoners have died in US custody in Iraq and Afghanistan since August 2002, according to US group Human Rights First.

The details were first aired on BBC television's Newsnight programme.

Of the 98 deaths, at least 34 were suspected or confirmed homicides, the programme said.

The Pentagon told Newsnight it had not seen the report but took allegations of maltreatment "very seriously" and would prosecute if necessary.

The report, which is to be published on Wednesday, draws on information from Pentagon and other official US sources.

Torture

Human Rights First representative Deborah Pearlstein told Newsnight she was "extremely comfortable" that the information was reliable.

The report defines the 34 cases classified as homicides as "caused by intentional or reckless behaviour".

It says another 11 cases have been deemed suspicious and that between eight and 12 prisoners were tortured to death.

But despite this, charges are rare and sentences are light, the report says.

Speaking on the programme, the US ambassador to Iraq said the "overwhelming number" of troops behaved according to the law.

But Zalmay Khalilzad said abuses did exist.

"They are human beings, they violate the law, they make mistakes and they have to be held accountable and the good thing about our system is that we do hold people accountable," he said.

Investigation call

UK MP Bob Marshall-Andrews told the Press Association that the report confirmed "in statistical terms the appalling evidence already available in footage".

"If it is indeed systemic, then the responsibility for it must go right to the top, and that would apply to both British and American governments," he said.

A spokesman for Amnesty International UK called for a probe into the deaths in custody.

"Deaths in custody during the war on terror are a real matter of concern to us and we want to see the US and its allies allowing a full independent and impartial investigation into these deaths, as well as mounting incidents of alleged torture and other mistreatment," he said.

He said Amnesty had raised the issue of "overly lenient sentences" for those found guilty of mistreating prisoners.

Last week, an Australian TV channel broadcast previously unpublished images showing apparent US abuse of prisoners in Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail in 2003.

New Abu Ghraib pictures spark fear, outrage


SYDNEY, Australia - New images showing Iraqis abused by U.S. guards at Abu Ghraib prison three years ago threatened Wednesday to inflame public anger already running high over footage of British soldiers beating youths in southern Iraq.

Images of naked prisoners, some bloodied and lying on the floor, were taken about the same time as earlier photos that triggered a worldwide scandal and led to military trials and prison sentences for several lower-ranking American soldiers.

Many of the images broadcast by Australia’s Special Broadcasting Service, including some that appear to show corpses, were more graphic than those previously published. One of the video clips depicted a group of naked men with bags over their heads standing together and masturbating. The network said they were forced to participate.

Al-Jazeera TV later aired some of the pictures in the Middle East.

The Arab satellite station refrained from showing some of the most shocking and sexually explicit images, however. Excerpts were also broadcast on CNN.

Iraq’s acting human rights minister, Nermine Othman, said she was “horrified” by the pictures and would study whether any action could be taken against those responsible, even though some offenders have been imprisoned.

“There will be two kinds of reactions from Iraqis,” she told The Associated Press. “One will be anger and others will feel sorry that they (SBS) didn’t give them to the Iraqi government to investigate. Why use them? Why show them? We have had enough suffering and we don’t want any more.”

Pentagon condemns release
Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said the Defense Department believed the release of additional images of prisoner abuse was harmful and “could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world.”

There have been ongoing widespread anti-Western protests over published caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad.

Whitman said he did not know whether the photos and video clips were among images the Pentagon has been withholding from public release since 2004.

But another defense official said Army officials had reviewed the photographs posted on the Sydney Morning Herald’s Web site and matched them to images that were among those turned over to military authorities in 2004 by a U.S. soldier.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to address the matter publicly, said the photos contained no new information about abuse.

Although the Abu Ghraib case was exhaustively reported here years ago, the new images could revive the issue of treatment of Iraqis by U.S.-led occupation forces, who face the ever-present threat of death or serious injury at the hands of insurgents.

Released after U.K. beating video
This week’s release of video showing British troops beating Iraqi youths during a violent 2004 protest in the southern city of Amarah prompted the Basra provincial administration to severe ties with British authorities.

Members of Shiite political groups opposed to the U.S.-led coalition appeared to have engineered that move. They were apparently seeking to exploit public sensitivities after attempts by the British to crack down on Shiite militias.

The fresh Abu Ghraib pictures were broadcast as the United States is trying to reach out to the disaffected Sunni Arab community, the backbone of the insurgency, in hopes of encouraging Sunni insurgents to lay down their arms and join the political process.

Most of those who suffered abuse at Abu Ghraib were believed to have been Sunni Arabs. Sunni leaders have also alleged mistreatment by Shiite-led Iraqi government security forces, a development that has sharpened sectarian tensions.

Adding fuel to the fire
Mindful of the risks, some key Iraqi officials either avoided comment or sought to play down the images, noting the Americans had already punished Abu Ghraib guards.

“I feel bringing up these issues is only going to add heat to an already fragile situation in Iraq and they don’t help anybody at all,” said Labeed Abbawi, an adviser to Iraq’s Foreign Ministry. “It will only lead to extra condemnation of Americans, British and later Iraqis” who have also been accused of abuse.

National Security Adviser Mouwafak al-Rubaie said he would discuss the pictures with U.S. authorities. “They don’t help in forming a good relationship between the multinational forces and Iraqi citizens,” he said.

Prisoner in Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison displaying burns claimed to have been inflicted by U.S. soldiers in Baghdad in 2004. The Australian station refused to say how it obtained the images, and their authenticity could not be verified independently.

However, they were consistent with earlier photographs of abuse by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib. Nine American soldiers — all low-ranking reservists — were convicted in the abuse and sentenced to terms ranging from discharge from the Army to 10 years imprisonment.

“The abuses at Abu Ghraib have been fully investigated,” Whitman said. “When there have been abuses, this department has acted upon them promptly, investigated them thoroughly and where appropriate prosecuted individuals,” he said.

He said more than 25 people have been held accountable for criminal acts and “other failures” at Abu Ghraib.

Graner in new images
The network, which aired the pictures on its “Dateline” program, did not identify anyone in the images. However, several photos appear to show former Spc. Charles Graner Jr., who is serving a 10-year prison term for his role in the scandal.

In one image, men wearing combat-style uniforms and holding dogs on leashes appear. Another showed two naked men whose hands were cuffed together. Another depicted an Iraqi’s face in agony.

Other images showed what appear to be dead bodies, as well as wounded people and prisoners performing sex acts. SBS said the bodies were of people who died at the prison.

The SBS also showed photographs of a bloodied cell block and the corpse of a man it said was killed during a CIA interrogation.

Another video, also aired by Al-Jazeera, showed a man described as mentally disturbed beating his head against a wall. Al-Jazeera’s brief excerpts included a hooded Iraqi male in his underwear, a naked figure lying on the floor next to what appeared to be a pool of blood and another with a man who appeared to be Graner smiling as he held a male prisoner.

The SBS broadcast said many of the new photos showed Graner having sex with Lynndie England, a 23-year-old reservist from Fort Ashby, W.Va., who is serving a three-year prison term for abusing prisoners. England said Graner fathered her young son.

Those photos were not shown.

ACLU calls for investigation
SBS said the images it showed were among photographs the American Civil Liberties Union was trying to obtain from the U.S. government under a Freedom of Information Act request.

The ACLU said it did not know how the images broadcast by SBS corresponded to its litigation. But it called on the U.S. government to investigate whether the abuse was systematic instead of blaming it on a few individuals.

“Well, these photographs are out and what really remains to be seen is how the government will respond to them,” Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the ACLU, told AP Television News in New York. “Will the government take this opportunity to really do an independent investigation into why this abuse happened and who is ultimately responsible for it?”