Abu Ghraib: Charges Against Military Personnel

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Charges Against Military Personnel accused of having engaged in acts of brutality, abuse, and torture at Abu Ghraib, one of ten Enemy Prisoner of War Camps in Iraq, began on April 28, 2004.

Bradley Graham reported in the May 22, 2004, Washington Post that the "Number of Army Probes of Detainee Deaths Rises to 33. Eight New Criminal Cases Include That of Iraqi Major General Who Led Hussein's Air Defenses".

BAGHDAD, Iraq - An investigation has been initiated into reported incidents of detainee abuse at a Coalition Forces detention facility. The release of specific information concerning the incidents could hinder the investigation, which is in its early stages. The investigation will be conducted in a thorough and professional manner. The Coalition is committed to treating all persons under its control with dignity, respect and humanity. Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the Commanding General, has reiterated this requirement to all members of CJTF-7.

From the headlines

On May 8, 2004, the Associated Press reported that:

"Army Pfc. Lynndie R. England, shown in photographs smiling and pointing at naked Iraqi prisoners, was charged Friday by the military with assaulting the detainees and conspiring to mistreat them.
"England, 21, is accused of 'assaulting Iraqi detainees on multiple occasions;' conspiring with another soldier, Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr., to mistreat the prisoners; committing an indecent act; and committing acts 'that were prejudicial to good order and discipline and were of nature to bring discredit upon the armed forces through her mistreatment of Iraqi detainees.'"

In a May 13, 2004, press conference, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Richard Myers said that the Prisoner Abuse Investigation Won't Be Fast. Military legal process must be allowed to 'run its course'."

Myers added that "the furor over the Iraqi prisoner abuse scandal needs to be calmed down because if the investigative process is compromised, there is a danger of violating the U.S. Constitution. 'It's very important not to rush to judgments,' the general said. The U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) process must be allowed to work."

Preferred Charges

  • Specialist Charles A. Graner, Jr.: "alleging conspiracy to maltreat detainees; dereliction of duty for willfully failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; maltreatment of detainees; assaulting detainees; committing indecent acts; adultery; and obstruction of justice." May 14, 2004[1]
  • Sergeant Javal S. Davis: "alleging conspiracy to maltreat detainees; dereliction of duty for willfully failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment; maltreatment of detainees; assaulting detainees; and making a statement intended to deceive an investigator." April 28, 2004. [2]
  • Specialist Jeremy C. Sivits: "alleging conspiracy to maltreat detainees, and dereliction of duty for negligently failing to protect detainees from abuse, cruelty and maltreatment." May 5, 2004. [3]

Army Cover-Up

In a follow-up to that ABC News' story, Ross and Salomon reported on May 21, 2004, in "Continuing the Cover-Up?" that Sgt. Provance had been "stripped of his security clearance and told he may face prosecution because his comments [to ABC News] were 'not in the national interest.'"
Additionally, Provance "was transferred to a different platoon, and his record was officially 'flagged,' meaning he cannot be promoted or given any awards or honors. ... Provance said he was told he will face administrative action for failing to report what he knew at the time and for failing to take steps to stop the abuse."
Provance's attorney, Scott Horton, said that he sees the Army's actions "as an effort to intimidate Sgt. Provance and any other soldier whose conscience is bothering him, and who wants to come forward and tell what really happened at Abu Ghraib."

Background Information

On June 27, 2003, President George W. Bush "pledged in a speech that the United States would not use torture on detainees in the war on terrorism. The same day, the Defense Department's general counsel released a letter specifying that 'all interrogations, wherever they may occur,' would not violate prohibitions in the U.S. Constitution against cruel and unusual punishment. It turns out those assurances were false. Two months earlier, The Post reported Sunday, the Pentagon had approved interrogation techniques for detainees at the Guantanamo Bay prison that allowed the disruption of sleep patterns and exposure to heat, cold and 'sensory assault.' Officials told reporter Dana Priest that similar procedures had been approved for 'high value' detainees in Iraq. Such abuse is impermissible under the Constitution; as recently as 2002 the Supreme Court ruled that similar treatment of an Alabama prisoner was an 'obvious' violation of the Eighth Amendment. Such practices also violate the Geneva Conventions, which the Bush administration says it is following in Iraq and applying to other detainees elsewhere.
"The crimes at the Abu Ghraib prison grew out of this improper system of interrogation. It is a regimen the administration has never fully disclosed, and about which it has misled Congress and the public through statements such as those of last June. Despite the incalculable damage caused by Abu Ghraib, the Bush administration persists in defending the system and in justifying its continued use, both at Guantanamo Bay and in Iraq."
"Yet a growing body of evidence shows that the connection is integral. The commander who oversaw the implementation of the interrogation procedures at Guantanamo Bay, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, visited Abu Ghraib in September and recommended that at least one part of what he calls the Guantanamo Bay 'model' be applied there: the subordination of prison guards to the intelligence interrogators trying to extract information. There is considerable evidence that Abu Ghraib prison guards abused prisoners on the instruction of interrogators. The abuses they committed were, to a certain extent, an extreme and undisciplined version of practices that the Pentagon has officially condoned. Mr. Miller is now in charge of Abu Ghraib; he recently acknowledged that techniques such as hooding, sleep deprivation and other 'very aggressive' techniques had been used there. He did not say the practices would be stopped -- only that they would need specific approval in the future."
"But the administration hasn't limited its system to Guantanamo Bay or to senior al Qaeda detainees. It has applied the practices loosely across a network of detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, and it has trusted its implementation to civilian contractors and reservists. The result has been outrages that have done far more damage to the United States than any intelligence collection could justify."

Related SourceWatch Resources

External links

  • Douglas Jehl and Eric Schmitt write in the May 9, 2004, New York Times about "In Abuse, a Portrayal of Ill-Prepared, Overwhelmed G.I.'s,".
  • Seymour M. Hersh, "Torture at Abu Ghraib," The New Yorker, May 10, 2004 (Issue): "American soldiers brutalized Iraqis. How far up does the responsibility go?"
  • "The Abu Ghraib Spin," New York Times Op-Ed, May 12, 2004: "It was alarming yesterday to hear General Antonio M. Taguba report that military commanders had eased the rules four times last year to permit guards to use 'lethal force' on unruly prisoners. The hearing also disclosed that Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander in Iraq, had authorized the presence of attack dogs during interrogation sessions. It wasn't very comforting that he had directed that these dogs be muzzled. ... General Sanchez did give some misguided orders involving the Abu Ghraib prison and prisoners in general. But the deeply flawed mission in which he participates is the responsibility of the Bush administration. It was Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld, not General Sanchez, who failed to anticipate the violence and chaos that followed the invasion of Iraq, and sent American soldiers out to handle it without the necessary resources, manpower and training."
  • "Two more face courts-martial in abuse case," CNN, May 12, 2004: "Sgt. Javal Davis and Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick III -- each face five counts before a general court-martial in Baghdad, Brig. Gen. Mark Kimmitt told reporters. ... Both men are members of the 372nd Military Police Company, the unit at the center of the Abu Ghraib prison scandal. No date has been set for their trials. ... Another member of the unit, Spc. Jeremy C. Sivits, faces a court-martial May 19."
  • Kate Zernicke and Adam Liptak, "Soldier Charged in Abuse Scandal Is Moved Away From Other Suspects," New York Times, May 13, 2004: "The government has moved Jeremy C. Sivits, the first soldier facing court-martial in the Abu Ghraib prison abuse scandal, from a tent in Baghdad where he and five other suspects have been housed since the investigation into the abuse began, lawyers for other defendants said. ... The lawyers said the move was apparently made out of concern for his safety because they have been told that Specialist Sivits, a 24-year-old military policeman from Pennsylvania, will plead guilty at his court-martial in Baghdad next Wednesday in exchange for an agreement to cooperate with the government against the five others. He is the first person to face trial in the prison abuse cases."
  • Richard Serrano, "3 Witnesses at Iraq Abuse Hearing Refused to Testify," Los Angeles Times, May 19, 2004: "Three key witnesses, including a senior officer in charge of interrogations, refused to testify during a secret hearing against an alleged ringleader of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal on the grounds that they might incriminate themselves."
  • Letter from Members of the House Judiciary Committee to Attorney General John Ashcroft "to request that you appoint a special counsel to investigate whether high ranking officials within the Bush Administration violated War Crimes Act , 18 U.S.C. 2441, by approving the use of torture techniques banned by international law. May 20, 2004.