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June 2004 • Vol 4, No. 6 •


US General Linked to Abu Ghraib Abuse

By Julian Borger

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, head of coalition forces in Iraq, issued an order last October giving military intelligence control over almost every aspect of prison conditions at Abu Ghraib with the explicit aim of manipulating the detainees’ “emotions and weaknesses,” it was reported yesterday.

The October 12 memorandum, reported in the Washington Post, is a potential “smoking gun” linking prisoner abuse to the U.S. high command. It represents hard evidence that the maltreatment was not simply the fault of rogue military police guards.

The memorandum came to light as more details emerged of the extent of detainee abuse. Formal statements by inmates published yesterday describe horrific treatment at the hands of guards, including the rape of a teenage Iraqi boy by an army translator.

At present, one prison guard has pleaded guilty to abuse of detainees, and six more are facing courts martial. A separate inquiry is underway into the role of military intelligence, but it is unclear whether any private contractors implicated will face prosecution.

The October memorandum also calls into question General Sanchez’s sworn testimony to the U.S. Senate. At a hearing this week of the Senate armed services committee, he was questioned about an order he had given in November placing Abu Ghraib prison under the command of a military intelligence brigade. He insisted the order referred only to the defense of the jail.

“All of the other responsibilities for continuing to run the prison for logistics, training, discipline and the conduct of prison operations remained with the 800th [military police] Brigade commander,” General Sanchez told senators.

He specifically rejected the findings of the official report into the Abu Ghraib abuse by Major General Antonio Taguba, who concluded that military intelligence officers had told the guards “to set the conditions” for interrogations.

However, according to the leaked memorandum, General Sanchez had explicitly given military intelligence interrogators control over the “lighting, heating…food, clothing and shelter” of the detainees being questioned.

It also called for military intelligence officials to work more closely with the military police guards at the prison to “manipulate an internee’s emotions and weaknesses.”

The New York Times yesterday reported that the military intelligence brigade that took control of the interrogation center was deployed direct from Afghanistan and brought with it harsh procedures it had developed there. The U.S. military deems U.S. military prisons in Afghanistan to be outside the jurisdiction of the Geneva conventions because it defines al-Qaida and Taliban fighters as “unlawful combatants.”

In the Washington Post report, one detainee, Kasim Hilas, describes the rape of an Iraqi boy by a man in uniform, whose name has been blacked out of the statement, but who appears to be a translator working for the army.

“I saw [name blacked out] fucking a kid, his age would be about 15-18 years. The kid was hurting very bad and they covered all the doors with sheets. Then when I heard the screaming I climbed the door because on top it wasn’t covered and I saw [blacked out], who was wearing the military uniform putting his dick in the little kid’s ass,” Mr. Hilas told military investigators. “I couldn’t see the face of the kid because his face wasn’t in front of the door. And the female soldier was taking pictures.”

It is not clear from the testimony whether the rapist described by Mr. Hilas was working for a private contractor or was a U.S. soldier. A private contractor was arrested after the Taguba investigation was completed, but was freed when it was discovered the army had no jurisdiction over him under military or Iraqi law.

Another inmate, Thaar Dawod, describes more abuse of teenage Iraqis. “They came with two boys naked and they were cuffed together face to face and Graner [Corporal Charles Graner, one of the military policemen facing court martial] was beating them and a group of guards were watching and taking pictures from top and bottom and there was three female soldiers laughing at the prisoners,” he said.

According to most inmate statements, Cpl. Graner ran the night shift at Abu Ghraib’s interrogation wing, and dealt out the worst of the abuse.

Ameen al-Sheikh testified that: “The night guard came over, his name is Graner, opened the cell door, came in with a number of soldiers. They forced me to eat pork and put liquor in my mouth. The second night Graner came and hung me on the cell door. I told him I have a broken shoulder. I am afraid it will break again…the doctor told me ‘don’t put your arms behind your back.’ He said: ‘I don’t care.’ Then he hung me to the door for more than eight hours.”

Mr. al-Sheikh’s testimony suggests military intelligence interrogators were also directly involved in the abuse. When he fails to identify a picture of a man suspected of giving him some pistols, he said the interrogators “point a weapon to my head and threaten they will kill me; sometimes with dogs and they hang me to the door allowing the dogs to try to bite me.”

The Guardian, May 22, 2004





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