Thu, Aug 30, 2007 - Page 7 News List

Officer cleared in Abu Ghraib case


The Abu Ghraib case has effectively ended, and criminal responsibility for the detainee pictures that drew world outrage ended up rising no higher on the US chain of command than staff sergeant.

The only officer charged, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, was acquitted on Tuesday of failing to control lower-ranking soldiers who abused and sexually humiliated detainees at the prison near Baghdad in the fall of 2003. A military jury found that his only crime was disobeying a general's order not to discuss the subsequent investigation.

The jury was set to resume deliberations yesterday on Jordan's punishment. The count carries a maximum five-year prison sentence, but prosecutors recommended that Jordan be reprimanded and fined one month's pay -- about US$7,400.

The allegations at the US-run prison became known with the release of pictures of US soldiers smiling while detainees, some of them naked, were held on leashes or in painful and humiliating positions at the prison. Jordan, 51, was accused of fostering a climate conducive to abuse.

Eleven enlisted soldiers were convicted. The highest-ranking was Staff Sergeant Ivan Frederick, a military police reservist who is serving an eight-year sentence.

Hina Shamsi, deputy director of New York-based Human Rights First, said an "accountability gap" remains between the convicted soldiers and high-ranking military and civilian officials who okayed harsh interrogation techniques.

"None of the cases brought to date has given the systemic accounting the nation needs of what happened, why and how far up the chain of command responsibility lies," Shamsi said. "It cries out for the kind of oversight and investigations that Congress can do."

John Sifton, a counterterrorism researcher with Washington-based Human Rights Watch, called Jordan's prosecution "amateurish and half-baked" and said the military lacked the will to get to the bottom of the abuse.

Jordan was head of the prison's interrogation center from mid-September until mid-November 2003. He was the senior officer inside one of the cellblock's on Nov. 24, 2003, during at least part of an episode that included a strip-search of Iraqi correctional officers for weapons and ended with a dog being brought in to intimidate a detainee during questioning in his cell.

The jury found Jordan not guilty of three counts related to the soldiers' behavior: Cruelty and maltreatment for subjecting detainees to forced nudity and intimidation by dogs; dereliction of a duty to properly train and supervise soldiers in humane interrogation rules; and failing to obey a lawful general order by ordering dogs used for interrogations without higher approval.

He was convicted of disobeying retired Major General George Fay's order not to discuss the general's investigation into the abuse.

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