FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
U.S. Soldiers Posed in
Photos of Mock Executions of Detainees; More Cases of Abuse
Revealed in Newly Released Documents
NEW YORK--The American Civil Liberties Union
today released files obtained from the Army revealing previously
undisclosed allegations of abuse by U.S. soldiers in Iraq and
Afghanistan. Among the documents are reports that a detainee who
was beaten and seriously injured was forced to drop his claims in
order to be released from custody.
"The torture of detainees is too widespread
and systemic to be dismissed as the rogue actions of a few
misguided individuals," said ACLU Executive Director Anthony
D. Romero. "The American public deserves to know which
high-level government officials are ultimately responsible for the
torture conducted in our name."
The release of these documents follows a federal
court order that directed the Defense Department and other
government agencies to comply with a year-old request under the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) filed by the ACLU, the Center
for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans
for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil
Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.
In one file released today, an Iraqi detainee
claimed that Americans in civilian clothing beat him in the head
and stomach, dislocated his arms, "stepped on [his] nose
until it [broke]," stuck an unloaded pistol in his mouth and
fired the trigger, choked him with a rope and beat his leg with a
baseball bat. Medical reports corroborated the detaineeís
account, stating that the detainee had a broken nose, fractured
leg, and scars on his stomach. In addition, soldiers confirmed
that Task Force 20 interrogators wearing civilian clothing had
interrogated the detainee. However, after initially reporting the
abuse, the detainee said that he was forced by an American soldier
to sign a statement denouncing the claims or else be kept in
detention indefinitely. He agreed.
An investigator who reviewed the signed
statement concluded that "[t]his statement, alone, is a prima
facie indication of threats." However, despite the medical
report and testimony from other soldiers, the criminal file was
ultimately closed on the grounds that the investigation had
"failed to prove or disprove" the offenses.
Another file released today reports that U.S.
soldiers in Afghanistan posed for photographs of mock executions
with hooded and bound detainees, and that some of these
photographs were intentionally destroyed after the Abu Ghraib
scandal to avoid "another public outrage."
The file concerns an investigation into the
discovery of a CD during an office clean-up in Afghanistan in July
2004. The CD contained digital images of what appeared to be abuse
and maltreatment of detainees in and around Fire Base Tycze in
southern Afghanistan. The pictures showed uniformed soldiers
pointing pistols and M-4 rifles at the heads and backs of bound
and hooded detainees, and other abuses such as holding a
detaineeís head against the wall of a cage. One sergeant stated
that he had also seen pictures on Army computers of detainees
being kicked, hit or inhumanely treated while in U.S. custody. An
Army Specialist and team leader with four soldiers assigned under
him admitted that similar photographs had been destroyed after
images of torture at Abu Ghraib prison were leaked to the media.
"These files provide more evidence, if any
were needed, that abuse was not limited to Abu Ghraib," said
ACLU staff attorney Jameel Jaffer. "Unfortunately, itís now
clear that the government failed to investigate many of these
abuses until the Abu Ghraib photographs came to light."
Other photos discovered during the investigation
showed bound U.S. soldiers in what is described as "an
activity called PUCíing (Person Under Control) a ritualistic
activity done on birthdays, re-enlistments, and similar events, by
fellow platoon members." The photographs showed hooded
soldiers lying on the ground in the dirt with their hands and feet
bound, while other soldiers poured water on them. The act
apparently simulated the treatment of detainees who were
designated as needing extra "control."
Additional cases of abuse revealed in the
investigative files released today include:
- Senior Psychological Operations (PsyOps)
officers in Afghanistan reported witnessing indiscriminate
assaults by Special Forces on civilians during raids in May
2004 in the villages of Gurjay and Sukhagen. Abuses included
hitting and kicking villagers in the head, chest, back and
stomach, and threatening to shoot them. An investigation into
the allegations was closed, citing failure to "prove or
disprove" the offenses because the victims and villagers
could not be interviewed.
- In Iraq, an investigation found probable
cause that two U.S. soldiers committed the offense of assault
when they punched and kicked a civilian whom they picked up at
a roadblock, while a sergeant took pictures and videotaped
part of the abuse. The soldiers then transported the man to an
Iraqi prison, where they watched Iraqi police further abuse
the detainee and kick him in the ribs before they left him
there. A commanderís report was pending in September 2004,
and no punishment was recorded in the file.
Attorneys for the ACLU and other organizations
named in the lawsuit will appear in federal court in New York on
February 22 to address, among other things, the Defense
Departmentís response to the FOIA request. The ACLU has
previously charged that the department is unlawfully withholding
several documents pertaining to the treatment of detainees, as
well as photographic and video evidence. In the last two months,
the Defense Department has turned over 21,600 pages of documents.
However, more than 16,600 of these pages were already publicly
available on the Internet.
"The Defense Department continues to
stonewall and to withhold thousands of documents
inappropriately," said Jaffer. "Astoundingly, it seems
to be the Defense Departmentís view that the public simply does
not have a right to know what the departmentís policies were or
who put them in place."
The ACLUís Romero urged Attorney General
Alberto Gonzales on Tuesday to appoint a special counsel to
investigate and, if warranted, prosecute civilians for their
involvement in the torture of detainees.
In related news, a federal judge earlier this
month rejected an attempt by the Central Intelligence Agency to
indefinitely delay the processing and release of critical
documents pertaining to torture. The CIA has indicated that it
will appeal this decision. According to news reports, the CIA is
currently seeking to scale back its role in detaining and
interrogating suspected terrorists who are being held abroad.
The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence
Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons,
Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys
in the case are Jaffer, Amrit Singh, Judy Rabinovitz and Omar
Jadwat of the ACLU; Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU;
and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of the Center for
To view the documents, go to: http://www.aclu.org/torturefoia/released/021605.html
More information on the ACLU lawsuit can be
found at: www.aclu.org/torturefoia