21 May 2005

Guardian

**See also AFGHANISTAN: US soldiers beat prisoners to death

See also Chained, tortured and left to die in cell

US abuse of Afghan prisoners 'widespread'

Sarah Left and agencies
Friday May 20, 2005

US soldiers carried out widespread abuse of detainees at the US-run Bagram prison camp in Afghanistan, according to a confidential US army report revealed today in the New York Times.

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'Bagram near Kabul serves as the main US base in Afghanistan' - See article from Aljazeera.Net

Seven soldiers have been charged in connection with abuse at Bagram, where the paper reports that harsh treatment by some interrogators was routine, prisoners were shackled in painful fixed positions, and guards could strike shackled detainees with virtual impunity.

The army document highlights the deaths in detention of Dilawar, a 22-year-old taxi driver who most interrogators had believed to be innocent, and another inmate, Habibullah. The two men died within six days of each other in December 2002.

The New York Times carries a graphic account of Dilawar's torture and death. His legs were beaten so badly that he could not bend them to kneel, and he was chained for days by his wrists to the roof of his cell. When he asked for a drink of water during his final interrogation, one US interrogator punched a hole in a water bottle, handed it to Dilawar and tormented him as the water poured away before he could drink, according to an interpreter present at the time.

After the interrogation, guards chained Dilawar again to the roof of his cell, where he was found dead by a doctor several hours later, the paper reported.

The details of prisoner abuse at Bagram follow the notorious photographs of torture at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and reports that the US has routinely handed some terrorism suspects over to third countries with far harsher reputations for torture, a practice known as 'renditions'.

The New York Times said it had obtained the army report from someone involved in the investigation who was critical of the methods used at Bagram and the military's response to the deaths. The paper reported that the investigation revealed young, poorly trained soldiers in repeated incidents of abuse.

"What we have learned though the course of all these investigations is that there were people who clearly violated anyone's standard for humane treatment. We're finding some cases that were not close calls," the Pentagon's spokesman, Larry Di Rita, told the paper.

In sworn statements to army investigators, soldiers described mistreatment ranging from a female interrogator stepping on a detainee's neck and kicking another in the genitals to a shackled prisoner being made to kiss the boots of interrogators as he rolled back and forth on the floor of a cell, according to the newspaper.

Another prisoner was made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum filled with a mixture of excrement and water to soften him up for interrogation, the report said.

The New York Times said that in October the army's criminal investigation command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offences in Dilawar's case, while fifteen of the same soldiers were also cited for probable criminal responsibility in Habibullah's case. No one has been convicted in connection with either death.

Pentagon spokesman Lieutenant Colonel John Skinner said the army document detailed by the New York Times demonstrated how seriously the US military considered allegations of abuse.

"Any incident is unacceptable, and when there are allegations we investigate them," he said, adding that 28 people had been implicated in the report and seven charged. "The wheels of justice are turning, as they should be."

Lt Col Skinner said that today there were more than 10 major lines of inquiry looking into all aspects of detention, alongside increased oversight, improved training and improved facilities. Notwithstanding those improvements, the policy from the beginning had been the humane treatment of detainees, he added.

"99.99% of our military members are upholding our standards every single day in a difficult and dangerous situation," he said. Where they don't, he added, there will be consequences.


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