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U.S. Forces Accused of Torture in Iraq
The Associated Press, Cairo, Egypt, Apr. 30, 2004
Arabs expressed outrage at graphic photographs shown on T.V. screens today across the Middle East of naked Iraqi prisoners being humiliated by smiling U.S. military police. The images shown on the Dubai-based Al-Arabiya and the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera channels were first broadcast Wednesday on C.B.S.' '60 Minutes II' and have led to charges against six U.S. soldiers. The Arab T.V. stations led news bulletins with the photos of hooded prisoners piled on top of each other in a human pyramid and simulating sex acts, with their genitals blurred. Two U.S. soldiers standing near the prisoners hammed it up for the camera.
World leaders and ordinary Arabs condemned the images. 'I was disgusted and angered by those humiliating pictures,' Egyptian insurance agent Omar Boghdady said. 'The scenes were really ugly.' The photos were taken last year at Abu Ghraib prison, near Baghdad. One of the photos showed a hooded prisoner standing on a box with wires attached to his hands. C.B.S. reported the prisoner was told that if he fell off the box, he would be electrocuted, although in reality the wires were not connected to a power supply.
In March, the U.S. Army announced that six members of the 800th Military Police Brigade faced court martial for allegedly abusing about 20 prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The charges included dereliction of duty, cruelty and maltreatment, assault and indecent acts with another person. In addition to those criminal charges, the military has recommended disciplinary action against seven U.S. officers who helped run the prison, including Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, the commander of the 800th Brigade.
Al-Jazeera introduced the pictures by saying they showed the 'immoral practices' of Iraq's occupation forces. 'This will increase the sense of dissatisfaction among Iraqis toward the Americans,' said a member of the U.S.-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Mahmoud Othman. 'The resistance people will try to make use of such painful incidents.' The Abu Ghraib prison was the most notorious of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein's detention centers. Its jailers are alleged to have tortured and killed thousands of Iraqis, and a cemetery outside has dozens of unmarked graves. 'The Saddam era was full of executions and torture, and we want the new Iraq to be clean of such images,' Othman said.
In Washington, President Bush condemned the apparent maltreatment of the Iraqi prisoners, saying: 'I share a deep disgust that those prisoners were treated the way they were.' 'Their treatment does not reflect the nature of the American people,' he said. 'That's not the way we do things in America. I didn't like it one bit.'
In Baghdad, military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt said the commander of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, detention facility, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, was being sent to Iraq to take over the coalition detention facilities. Kimmitt said the army is taking 'very aggressive steps' to minimize the chances of such acts happening again. 'We are taking a hard look at the chain of command,' Kimmitt said. 'We are also taking a hard look at interrogation practices.'
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan 'was deeply disturbed by the pictures of Iraqi prisoners being mistreated and humiliated by their guards,' U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard said Friday. Annan welcomed 'what appears to be a clear determination on the part of the U.S. military to bring those responsible to justice,' Eckhard said, adding that the U.N. chief stressed that 'all detainees should be fully protected in accordance with the provisions of international human rights law.'
Al-Arabiya's reporter said the pictures posed the question of how many more abuses were occurring without coming to public light.
Amnesty International issued a statement from its London headquarters today saying its research indicated that the abuse 'is not an isolated incident.' Yemeni human rights activist Mustafa Rageh agreed. 'I believe lots of similar scenes are still hidden, and what we have seen today is just a sample,' Rageh said. 'Such hideous scenes are severely violating human rights' basic principles.' Amnesty warned that the evidence of torture 'will exacerbate an already fragile situation.' 'The prison was notorious under Saddam Hussein,' it said. 'It should not be allowed to become so again.'