Mon, Mar 28, 2005 - Page 7 News List

Papers show widespread US Army abuse

LEADERSHIP BREAKDOWN Documents released by the Pentagon under a court order show that Abu Ghraib may have been the rule rather than the exception in Iraq

AFP , WASHINGTON

The US Army's abuse of detainees in Iraq went beyond Abu Ghraib prison and included brutal beatings of suspects as well as forcing them to do physical exercises until exhaustion, according to military documents made public here.

The more than 1,200 pages of documents were released late Friday in response to a court order that instructed the Department of Defense to comply with a Freedom of Information request filed by the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups.

They include evidence that forced physical exertions may have caused the death of at least one detainee held by the US Army in the northern Iraqi town of Mosul, as well as reports of brutal beatings and sworn statements that soldiers were told to "beat the f... out of" prisoners.

"These documents provide further evidence that the torture of detainees was much more widespread than the government has acknowledged," said ACLU attorney Jameel Jaffer. "At a minimum, the documents indicate a colossal failure of leadership."

Before being brought to a detention center in Mosul in late 2003, Abu Malik Kenami had no known medical problems.

But an internal Army investigative document suggests he may have suffered a heart attack after his guards forced him to do rapid situps with "his hands flex cuffed behind his back."

According to the paper, Kenami was forced to do "ups and downs several times" with "a sandbag placed over" his head.

"Ups and downs," the document explains, are "a correctional technique of having a detainee stand up and then sit down rapidly, always keeping them in constant motion."

The file indicates that after his death Kenamis body was thrown into a refrigerator van and kept there for five days without any autopsy. After that it was quietly turned over to a local Iraqi mortician for burial.

Many of the documents focus on the 311th Military Intelligence Battalion, whose task was to collect information on Islamist insurgents and hiding associates of the deposed regime of President Saddam Hussein.

Military investigators reported to their superiors that "abuse of detainees in some form or other was an acceptable practice and was demonstrated to the inexperienced infantry guards almost as guidance," the papers show.

In a bid to extract information, guards and interrogators "were striking the detainees," the investigators went on to say, while other intelligence personnel and translators "engaged in physical torture."

However, no punitive action was recommended against the battalion commander.

The victims includes a high-school boy, whose jaw was broken in detention as a result of which his mouth was wired shut and he could eat only through a straw.

The victim was told to say that he had fallen down and no one beat him, according to the documents.

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