Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Turning The Corner, part 5

According to a report by the Human Rights Watch, torture is still routine in occupied Iraq.
But one minor peon has been sent to the stockade, so everything must be improving.


Blogger Management said...

Torture in Iraq Still Routine, Report Says
Detainees Beaten, Hung by Wrists, Shocked by Security Forces, Rights Group Finds

By Doug Struck
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, January 25, 2005; Page A10

BAGHDAD, Jan. 24 -- Twenty months after Saddam Hussein's government was toppled and its torture chambers unlocked, Iraqis are again being routinely beaten, hung by their wrists and shocked with electrical wires, according to a report by a human rights organization.

Iraqi police, jailers and intelligence agents, many of them holding the same jobs they had under Hussein, are "committing systematic torture and other abuses" of detainees, Human Rights Watch said in a report to be released Tuesday.

Legal safeguards are being ignored, political opponents are targeted for arrest, and the government of interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi "appears to be actively taking part, or is at least complicit, in these grave violations of fundamental human rights," the report concludes.

A spokesman for Allawi declined to comment, Monday and said "I will put this report on the prime minister's desk tomorrow to see if he has any reaction."

Ibrahim Jafari, an interim vice president, said in an interview that security forces needed to be tougher to combat the campaign of violence by opponents of the election.

"I think the security people are not arresting enough and are releasing them too quickly," Jafari said. "And many of the security people are cooperating with the criminals. I think we have to put security as our priority."

The Human Rights Watch report acknowledged that Iraq was "in the throes of a significant insurgency" in which 1,300 police officers and thousands of civilians were killed in the last four months of 2004. But it argued that "no government, not Saddam Hussein's, not the occupying powers and not the Iraqi Interim Government, can justify ill-treatment of persons in custody in the name of security."

The report was based on interviews with 90 current and former detainees in Iraq conducted between July and October last year, many of them interviewed when they were brought to court for initial proceedings. Of those, 72 said they were "tortured or ill-treated," the report says. It recounts numerous individual cases of torture, and says the victims often had fresh scars or bruises.

"I was beaten with cables and suspended by my hands tied behind my back," Dhia Fawzi Shaid, 30, a resident of Baghdad, told the human rights investigators, according to the report. "I saw young men there lying on the floor while police [stepped] on their heads with boots. It was worse than Saddam's regime."

Another, identified in the report as Ali Rashid Abbadi, 21, said he was arrested by police after the bombing of a liquor store on July 11. "The police came and started hitting us," he told Human Rights Watch. "They shouted at us to confess. . . . We were blindfolded and our hands were tied behind our backs. They poured cold water over me and applied electric shocks to my genitals."

Abbadi was later released by a judge for lack of evidence, the report says.

The report deals with the conduct of Iraqi authorities but not that of U.S. military forces at three U.S.-run detention facilities in Iraq, including Abu Ghraib. The three sites currently hold about 9,000 prisoners.

The Washington Post contacted several people whose cases were included in the report. They declined to speak to a reporter, saying they feared retaliation by police.

"The majority of detainees . . . stated that torture and ill-treatment during the initial period was commonplace" in jails run by the Interior Ministry, the report says. The abuses included "routine beatings . . . using cables, [rubber] hosepipes and metal rods . . . kicking, slapping and punching, prolonged suspension from the wrists," as well as electric shocks to the genitals and long periods spent blindfolded and handcuffed.

Hania Mufti, the Baghdad director of Human Rights Watch and chief author of the report, said she did not find examples of abuses that were on a par with the worst atrocities committed under Hussein's rule, such as mock executions, disfigurement with acid or sexual assaults on family members in front of prisoners. But in many other respects, she said, treatment of those swept up by police had changed little.

"Many of the same people who worked in Saddam's time are still doing those jobs today. So there is a continuity of personnel and of mind-set," she said in an interview. "I think the Iraqi people themselves thought there was going to be a different system. Every day, they are finding it is not so different."

The report also says authorities made a mockery of legal safeguards. People said they were arrested without warrants and held without charges for days, weeks or months. Police officials ignored summonses from judges, and judges who became too demanding of authorities were removed from their jobs.

"The message has not gone out from the government that torture will not be tolerated," Mufti said. And foreign advisers hired to assist the Iraqi police have failed to object, she said.

The report relates "the only known case in which U.S. forces intervened to stop detainee abuse." It said scouts from an Oregon Army National Guard unit saw Iraqi guards at an Interior Ministry compound abusing detainees on June 29. A soldier took pictures through his rifle scope of detainees who were blindfolded and bound.

According to an account related in the report by Capt. Jarrell Southal of the National Guard, his soldiers entered the compound and found bound prisoners "writhing in pain" and complaining of lack of water. They gave water to the men, moved them out of the sun and then disarmed the Iraqi police. But when the Oregon soldiers radioed up their chain of command for instructions, they were ordered to "return the prisoners to the Iraqi authorities and leave the detention yard."

7:13 PM  
Blogger Management said...

Graner sentenced to 10 years for abuses
He admitted to 'criminal' acts but said he was following orders

Saturday, January 15, 2005 Posted: 9:06 PM EST (0206 GMT)
FORT HOOD, Texas (CNN) -- Army Reserve Spc. Charles Graner Jr. was sentenced Saturday to 10 years in a military prison for his role in abusing detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad.

Graner, 36, will serve his prison term as a private, with no salary, and will be dishonorably discharged after he is released.

Led from the courtroom in handcuffs and leg chains, Graner twice answered "No, ma'am" when asked whether he had regrets or apologies.

His mother, Irma, said her son took the rap for high-ranking officers, whom she said were "all guilty."

She criticized them for failing to testify on his behalf.

"He got 10 years in prison for something he was told to do," she said. "He committed a crime for obeying orders, and he would have committed a crime if he didn't obey orders."

Asked about his parents' claim that he was a scapegoat, Graner said, "I was a soldier, and if I did wrong, here I am."

Graner's attorney, Guy Womack, told reporters that he thought there are "some appealable issues" after the court-martial.

When the sentence was read, Graner stood stiffly, but his brows were a bit furrowed.

After jurors left the room, Graner turned to his attorney and said, "That's what makes the world go around," and laughed slightly.

He told reporters in the courtroom that he knew people thought he had acted "goofy" outside of the proceedings, smiling all the time, "talking about the sky being blue all the time" -- but he explained, "I'm home. I didn't think I would make it home, like some others did not."

Graner, a former prison guard in Pennsylvania, told CNN on Saturday that he had expected to get the maximum penalty of 15 years.

Friday, the same jury found Graner guilty of 10 charges, including aggravated assault, maltreatment and conspiracy.

Prosecutors accused Graner of being a ringleader in the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners that came to light when photos of apparent abuses were broadcast in the media in April 2004.

A Syrian prisoner whom Graner was convicted of battering testified that he was beaten while recovering from a bullet wound, and called Graner the top torturer in the prison.

Earlier Saturday during the penalty phase of his court-martial, Graner said he did not relish doling out what he described as "irregular treatment."

"I didn't enjoy it," Graner testified. "A lot of it was wrong. A lot of it was criminal."

Graner said he was obeying his superiors.

"We were called to violate the Geneva Convention," Graner said. "We were asked to do certain things I wasn't trained to do."

Graner's testimony was unsworn, meaning he could not be cross-examined.

His orders came from civilian contractors as well as military intelligence, Graner said during two-and-a-half hours on the witness stand.

"A lot of the weird stuff came from civilian contractors," he said, referring specifically to the photographs. Also, he said, "crazy stuff" was ordered by military intelligence soldiers.

When Womack asked why he was smiling in some photographs, Graner said, "There were a lot of things we did that were screwed up. If you didn't look at it as funny, you couldn't deal with it."

Graner told jurors he respected and understood their decision to convict him.

As he was leaving the courthouse for lunch, he was asked how he thought he would be treated in a military prison. "Professionally," he responded.

Friday night, Graner's parents had asked for mercy from the military jury.

"He wanted to be [a military policeman]. God, I don't know why," said his father, Charles Graner Sr.

"I bear no malice for you. When he came home, we were going to go fishing. He was going tell me about the war," Graner said. "Now, that fishing is going to be postponed. For how long, it's going to be up to you.

"I'd get down on my knees and beg to you, but my son wouldn't let me do it."

Irma Graner said her son was "kind, gentle, will do anything for anybody. He's not the one that he's being made out to be."

In dramatic closing arguments before the jury, prosecutors showed video and photographs of alleged abuses by Graner.

"What we have here is plain abuse, no doubt about it. There is no justification," prosecuting attorney Capt. Chris Graveline said.

But Graner's defense attorneys argued the images in the photographs were not as horrible as the prosecution made them out to be.

Graner, from Uniontown, Pennsylvania, was the first to face trial of the seven military guards charged in connection with the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

Three of those guards -- all from the 372nd Military Police Company -- have pleaded guilty without going to trial: Staff Sgt. Ivan Frederick II, 37, of Buckingham, Virginia; Spc. Jeremy Sivits, 24, of Fort Ashby, West Virginia; and Spc. Megan Ambuhl, 29, of Centreville, Virginia.

Graner reportedly had a relationship and fathered a baby with England, who is awaiting charges from the case.

Ambuhl testified earlier in the week that she also had a brief sexual relationship with him.

7:18 PM  

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