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Context of 'Morning July 22, 2004: US Army Investigation: No Systemic Problems in Detention System in Iraq and Afghanistan'

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An unnamed Iraqi is taken into custody by Coalition Forces and then subjected to severe abuse in the military intelligence section of Camp Cropper. The International Committee of the Red Cross will later interview the person and report the prisoner’s allegations to Coalition Forces once in early July and then again in February 2004 (see February 24, 2004). The latter report will explain: “In one illustrative case, a person deprived of his liberty arrested at home by the CF [Coalition Forces] on suspicion of involvement in an attack against the CF, was allegedly beaten during interrogation in a location in the vicinity of Camp Cropper. He alleged that he had been hooded and cuffed with flexi-cuffs, threatened to be tortured and killed, urinated on, kicked in the head, lower back and groin, force-fed a baseball which was tied into the mouth using a scarf, and deprived of sleep for four consecutive days. Interrogators would allegedly take turns ill-treating him. When he said he would complain to the IRC he was allegedly beaten more. An ICRC medical examination revealed haematoma in the lower back, blood in the urine, sensory loss in the right hand due to tight handcuffing with flexi-cuffs, and a broken rib.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; New York Times, 5/11/2004]

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

At Camp Bucca in Iraq, a Coalition soldier shoots a prisoner who is throwing stones. A February 2004 International Committee of the Red Cross report (see February 24, 2004) will recount: “Following unrest in a section of the camp one person deprived of his liberty, allegedly throwing stones, was fired upon by a guard in a watchtower. He suffered a gunshot wound to the upper part of the chest, the bullet passed through the chest and exited form [sic] the back…. An ICRC delegate and interpreter witnessed most of the events. At no point did the persons deprived of their liberty, and the victim shot at, appear to pose a serious threat to the life or security of the guards who could have responded to the situation with less brutal measures. The shooting showed a clear disregard for human life and security of the persons deprived of their liberty.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) files a report with Coalition Authorities complaining that its soldiers and intelligence officers have been arresting and detaining Iraqis without cause, routinely using excessive force during the initial stages of detention, and subjecting prisoners to extreme physical and emotional abuse. The report is based on 29 visits to 14 detention centers in Iraq between March 31 and October 24, 2003, during which time ICRC workers privately interviewed thousands of prisoners. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004; Washington Post, 5/12/2004] Among its findings:
bullet According to “certain CF (Coalition Forces) military intelligence officers,” 70 to 90 percent of the detainees being held in captivity were “arrested by mistake.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Captives were not informed of the reason for their arrest or provided with access to legal counsel. “They were often questioned without knowing what they were accused of. They were not allowed to ask questions and were not provided with an opportunity to seek clarification about the reason for their arrest.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet There were eight instances in which American guards shot at their captives resulting in seven prisoner deaths and 18 injuries. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet During the initial stages of captivity, prisoners were subjected to brutality which sometimes caused serious injury or death. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prisoners were subjected to physical and psychological coercion, which in “some cases was tantamount to torture.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prisoners were kept in prolonged solitary confinement in cells in complete darkness. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prison guards and soldiers used excessive and disproportionate use of force. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prisoners being held in Unit 1A of Abu Ghraib were kept “completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness.” Some of the prisoners were forced into “acts of humiliation such as being made to stand naked against the wall of the cell with arms raised or with women’s underwear over the [sic] heads for prolonged periods—while being laughed at by guards, including female guards, and sometimes photographed in this position.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004; New York Times, 5/11/2004]
bullet Prisoners’ hands were often bound with flexi-cuffs so tightly that the captive incurred skin wounds and nerve damage. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Soldiers pressed prisoners’ faces into the ground with their combat boots. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prisoners were beaten with pistols and rifles and were slapped, punched, or kicked with knees or boots. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prisoners were threatened with execution and transferred to Guantanamo. Some captives were told that their family members would be harmed. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prisoners were deprived of adequate sleep, food, water, and access to open air. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Prisoners were subjected to forced and prolonged exposure to hot sun on days when the temperature exceed 120 degrees. [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Interviews with military intelligence officers confirmed that “methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information.” [International Committee of the Red Cross, 2/24/2004 pdf file; Washington Post, 5/10/2004]
bullet Iraqi police, operating under control of the US, turned people over to Coalition Forces for refusing to pay bribes. [New York Times, 5/12/2004]

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

The Wall Street Journal publishes portions of the February Red Cross (ICRC) report (see February 24, 2004) on coalition prisons in Iraq. [Wall Street Journal, 5/7/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives

Paul T. Mikolashek.Paul T. Mikolashek. [Source: US Army]The US Army’s inspector general, Lt. Gen. Paul T. Mikolashek, presents a 300-page report listing 94 documented cases of prisoner abuse to the Senate Armed Services Committee. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] Of the 94 cases cited in the report, 39 are deaths. Twenty of those are suspected homicides. [Los Angeles Times, 10/15/2004] In preparing the report, Mikolashek’s team visited more than two dozen US military installations in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the US. Unlike previous investigations, Mikolashek did not look at individual cases. Instead, his team reviewed records of reported cases and the findings of previous investigations. Team members also interviewed 650 soldiers and officers and looked at broad Army doctrine and training. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] Mikolashek’s report concludes that abuses were not due to “systemic” problems. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] For example, it found no evidence that there was a “pattern of abuse” in the central command’s area of responsibility. [New York Times, 6/6/2004] The report’s conclusions are made in spite of the fact that the investigative team identified numerous problems at the prison stemming from poorly trained US military personnel, inadequate supervision, and vague and contradictory policies and orders. According to Mikolashek, documented cases of abuse were “aberrations” that did not follow from Army doctrine but from the “the failure of individuals to follow known standards of discipline and Army values and, in some cases, the failure of a few leaders to enforce those standards of discipline.” They were, the report stressed, “unauthorized actions taken by a few individuals.” The conduct of most of the soldiers, however, exhibited “military professionalism, ingrained Army values, and moral courage,” the report insisted. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004] The report’s conclusions stand in stark contrast to the Red Cross’s report (see February 24, 2004), released in late February, which concluded that problems in the US detention system were widespread and systemic. Though the report will be heavily criticized for its conclusion that military and administration officials should not be blamed for the atrocities, it does contain an abundant amount of evidence that they created an environment that encouraged the abuses to happen. For example, Mikolashek’s team found:
bullet The military hired private contractors to interrogate detainees because the military had too few translators and interrogators in the field. More than a third of these private contractors were not sufficiently trained. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Almost two thirds of the prisoners were kept in makeshift prison camps, or collection points, for as many as 30 days—60 times the 12-hour limit set by Army doctrine. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Preventive medical services were insufficient. Not one of the US-run facilities visited by the team met the Army’s medical screening requirements. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet Copies of the Geneva Conventions in the detainees’ native languages were present at only four of the 16 facilities visited by Mikolashek’s team, in contravention of international law. There was not a single US-run facility in Afghanistan that had a copy. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet At Abu Ghraib, the conditions were extremely unsanitary. The prison was seriously overcrowded, lacked an adequate supply of potable water, and had garbage and sewage strewn on the grounds of the outdoor camps. There were only 12 showers available for 600 to 700 detainees. Meals provided to the detainees were often contaminated with dirt and rodent droppings. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet The Bagram base in Afghanistan had a leaking roof and no sanitary system. “Human waste spills were frequent on the main floor,” the reports says. Sections of the base were contaminated with toxic chemicals leftover from previous airport operations. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]
bullet The military’s interrogation policy was confusing and instructions were often conflicting. “While the language of the approved policies could be viewed as a careful attempt to draw the line between lawful and unlawful conduct, the published instructions left considerable room for misapplication.” This could “create settings in which unsanctioned behavior, including detainee abuse, could occur,” the report’s authors conclude. [Washington Post, 7/23/2004]

Entity Tags: International Committee of the Red Cross, Paul T. Mikolashek

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, War in Afghanistan

James Schlesinger.James Schlesinger. [Source: HBO]The four-member Independent Panel to Review Department of Defense Detention Operations completes its final report on its investigations into the prisoner abuses that are known to have taken place in US-run detention centers throughout Iraq and Afghanistan. The investigative panel, which includes James R. Schlesinger, Harold Brown, Tillie K. Fowler, and Gen. Charles A. Horner, finds that a failure of leadership, leading all the way to Defense Secretary Rumsfeld, contributed to the abuse of prisoners. Like the Fay report (see August 25, 2004), to be released the following day, and the February 2004 Taguba report (see March 9, 2004), the Schlesinger report concludes that a lack of oversight and supervision allowed incidents, such as that which occurred at Abu Ghraib, to occur. Unlike preceding investigations, the Schlesinger Panel takes issue with the notion that abuses resulted from the actions of a few bad apples and were not widespread, charging that there is “both institutional and personal responsibility at higher levels.” The panel however does not name names. Notwithstanding their criticisms of the secretary, all four members say that Rumsfeld’s mistakes were comparably less significant than those made by uniformed officers. The panel, appointed by the secretary himself, recommends against removing Rumsfeld from office. [New York Times, 8/25/2004] In sum, the panel finds:
bullet Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and his aides failed to anticipate significant militant resistance to the US invasion and did not respond quickly enough to it when its strength became apparent. [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet The Department of Defense created confusion when it issued, retracted, and then re-issued its policy on interrogation methods. [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet The failure to adequately staff Abu Ghraib contributed to the poor conditions and abuses that took place at the prison. The ratio of military police to prisoners at the facility was 75 to one. [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet Responsibility for the abuses that took place at Abu Ghraib go beyond the handful of MPs present in the photographs. “We found a string of failures that go well beyond an isolated cellblock in Iraq,” panelist Tillie K. Fowler explains during a Pentagon press conference. “We found fundamental failures throughout all levels of command, from the soldiers on the ground to the Central Command and to the Pentagon. These failures of leadership helped to set the conditions which allowed for the abusive practice to take place.” [US Department of Defense, 8/24/2004; New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet Rumsfeld’s decision (see December 2, 2002) on December 2, 2002 to authorize 16 pre-approved additional interrogation procedures for use at the Guantanamo facility; his subsequent decision (see January 15, 2003) to rescind that authority, and the final April 16, 2003 decision (see April 16, 2003) providing a final list of approved techniques was “an element contributing to uncertainties in the field as to which techniques were authorized.” The methods on the list eventually “migrated to Afghanistan and Iraq where they were neither limited nor safeguarded.” [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet The panel seemingly concludes that the interrogation methods approved for use in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo are lawful, fully agreeing that the Third Geneva Convention does not apply to detainees considered enemy combatants. The panel does not question whether the military was justified in classifying the detainees, or “terrorists,” as such. “The Panel accepts the proposition that these terrorists are not combatants entitled to the protections of Geneva Convention III. Furthermore, the Panel accepts the conclusion the Geneva Convention IV and the provisions of domestic criminal law are not sufficiently robust and adequate to provide for the appropriate detention of captured terrorists.” [US Congress, 9/9/2004, pp. 83 pdf file]
bullet The panel says that Gen. Ricardo Sanchez’s decision to classify some prisoners in Iraq as enemy combatants was “understandable,” even though Combined Joint Task Force 7 “understood there was no authorization to suspend application of the Geneva Conventions… .” [US Congress, 9/9/2004, pp. 83 pdf file]
bullet Abuses at Abu Ghraib involved both MPs and military intelligence personnel. “We now know these abuses occurred at the hands of both military police and military intelligence personnel,” the report says. “The pictured abuses, unacceptable even in wartime, were not part of authorized interrogations nor were they even directed at intelligence targets. They represent deviant behavior and a failure of military leadership and discipline. However, we do know that some of the egregious abuses at Abu Ghraib which were not photographed did occur during interrogation sessions and that abuses during interrogation sessions occurred elsewhere.… We concur with the Jones/Fay investigation’s (see August 25, 2004) conclusion that military intelligence personnel share responsibility for the abuses at Abu Ghraib with the military police soldiers cited in the Taguba investigation.” [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet In Guantanamo, roughly one-third of all abuses were interrogation related. [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet Contradicting the conclusions of the Red Cross report (see May 7, 2004), the Schlesinger report demonstrates that abuses were widespread. “Abuses of varying severity occurred at differing locations under differing circumstances and context,” the report’s authors write. “They were widespread and, though inflicted on only a small percentage of those detained… .” [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet The abusive practices were not sanctioned by the military’s interrogation policy. “No approved procedures called for or allowed the kinds of abuse that in fact occurred. There is no evidence of a policy of abuse promulgated by senior officials or military authorities.” [New York Times, 8/25/2004]
bullet The panelists believe the abuses occurring during the night shift in Cell Block 1 of Abu Ghraib “would have been avoided with proper training, leadership and oversight.” [New York Times, 8/25/2004] Critics will say the report is a “whitewash,” noting that the panel cannot be considered independent given that it was appointed by Rumsfeld himself. Months before the panel completed its work, panelist Tillie Fowler said Rumsfeld should not be blamed for the abuses. “The secretary is an honest, decent, honorable man, who’d never condone this type of activity,” she said referring to the abuse at Abu Ghraib. “This was not a tone set by the secretary.” [New York Times, 6/6/2004]

Entity Tags: James R. Schlesinger, International Committee of the Red Cross, Harold Brown, Charles A. Horner, George R. Fay, Donald Rumsfeld, Tillie K. Fowler

Timeline Tags: Torture of US Captives, Civil Liberties

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