Sun, May 30, 2004 - Page 7 News List

US abuses alleged at other facilities

COERCION Another four holding facilities in Iraq were alleged to have been the scene of abuse of a number of Iraqi prisoners by US military-intelligence operatives

AP , WASHINGTON

An Iraqi prisoner reaches out to greet a friend as another talks from a bus window following their release from the Abu Ghraib prison, west of Baghdad, on Friday. US forces released over 600 prisoners on Friday from Abu Ghraib, infamous before as a torture house under former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein and now for a US prison-abuse scandal.

PHOTO: AFP

Several US guards allege they witnessed military-intelligence operatives encouraging the abuse of Iraqi prison inmates at four prisons other than Abu Ghraib, investigative documents show.

Court transcripts and Army investigator interviews provide the broadest view of evidence that abuses, from forcing inmates to stand in hoods in 49oC heat to punching them, occurred at a Marine detention camp and three Army prison sites in Iraq besides Abu Ghraib.

Testimony about tactics used at a Marine prisoner-of-war camp near Nasiriyah also raises the question whether coercive techniques were standard procedure for military intelligence units in different service branches and throughout Iraq.

At the Marines' facility Camp Whitehorse, the guards were told to keep enemy prisoners of war -- EPWs, in military jargon -- standing for 50 minutes each hour for up to 10 hours. They would then be interrogated by "human exploitation teams," or HETs, comprising intelligence specialists.

"The 50/10 technique was used to break down the EPWs and make it easier for the HET member to get information from them," Marine Corporal Otis Antoine, a guard at Camp Whitehorse, testified at a military court hearing in February.

US military officials say US troops in Iraq are required to follow the Geneva Conventions on prisoners of war for all detainees in Iraq. Those conventions prohibit "physical or moral coercion" or cruel treatment.

The Army's intelligence chief told a US Senate panel this month that intelligence soldiers are trained to follow Geneva Convention rules strictly.

"Our training manuals specifically prohibit the abuse of detainees, and we ensure all of our soldiers trained as interrogators receive this training," Lieutenant General Keith Alexander told the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Violation

The Marine Corps judge hearing the Camp Whitehorse case wrote that forcing hooded, handcuffed prisoners to stand for 50 minutes every hour in the 49oC desert could be a Geneva Convention violation. Colonel William Gallo wrote that such actions "could easily form the basis of a law of war violation if committed by an enemy combatant."

Two Marines face charges over the death of Nagem Sadoon Hatab at Camp Whitehorse last June, although no one is charged with killing him. Military records say Hatab was asphyxiated when a Marine guard grabbed his throat in an attempt to move him, accidentally breaking a bone that cut off his air supply. Another Marine is charged with kicking Hatab in the chest in the hours before his death.

Army Major General George Fay is finishing an investigation into military-intelligence management and practices at Abu Ghraib and elsewhere in Iraq. Alexander and other top military-intelligence officials say they never gave orders that would have encouraged abuses.

"If we have a problem, if it is an intel oversight problem, if it is an MP [military police] problem or if it's a leadership problem, we have to get to the bottom of this," Alexander told the Senate panel.

Encouraged

Most of the seven enlisted soldiers charged in the Abu Ghraib abuses say they were encouraged to "soften up" prisoners for interrogators through humiliation and beatings. Several witnesses also report seeing military-intelligence operatives hit Abu Ghraib prisoners, strip them naked and order them to be kept awake for long periods.

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