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Red Cross Was Told Iraq Abuse 'Part of the Process'

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Red Cross Was Told Iraq Abuse 'Part of the Process'


1 hour, 20 minutes ago

By Peter Graff

LONDON (Reuters) - The Red Cross saw U.S. troops keeping Iraqi prisoners naked for days in darkness at the Abu Ghraib jail in October, and was told by the intelligence officer in charge it was "part of the process," a leaked report said on Monday.

The International Committee of the Red Cross also described British troops forcing Iraqi detainees to kneel and stomping on their necks in an incident in which one prisoner died.

The Red Cross said it had repeatedly alerted U.S.-led occupation authorities to practices it described as "serious violations of international humanitarian law" and "in some cases tantamount to torture."

It confirmed the confidential February 4 report, which appeared on the Wall Street Journal Web Site Monday, was genuine.

The 24-page report concluded that "persons deprived of their liberty face the risk of being subjected to a process of physical and psychological coercion, in some cases tantamount to torture, in the early stages of the internment process."

During a visit to Abu Ghraib in October, Red Cross delegates witnessed "the practice of keeping persons deprived of their liberty completely naked in totally empty concrete cells and in total darkness," the report said.

"Upon witnessing such cases, the ICRC interrupted its visits and requested an explanation from the authorities. The military intelligence officer in charge of the interrogation explained that this practice was 'part of the process'."

It said it met prisoners who were being held naked in complete darkness. Others had been held naked and were allowed to dress, but given only women's underwear.

The Red Cross's visit took place two months before pictures were taken of U.S. troops abusing prisoners, which later led to criminal charges against seven soldiers.


Those pictures appeared in the media last month, causing international outrage and prompting apologies by President Bush and other senior officials. However, Washington has said it believed the practices were isolated incidents of aberrant behavior by individuals and not its usual practice.

Although much of the abuse described in the report appears to have taken place in jails run by U.S. forces, the report also describes the death of an Iraqi prisoner in custody in the British zone Basra last September. His name is blacked out.

A spokesman for Britain's defense ministry said the allegation was not new, but appeared to be a reference to the death of an Iraqi detainee named Baha Musa, which Britain says it has been investigating since last year.

The Red Cross report described him as one of nine men arrested in a Basra hotel and "made to kneel, face and hands against the ground, as if in a prayer position. The soldiers stamped on the back of the neck of those raising their head."

It said the death certificate for the Iraqi prisoner listed his cause of death as a heart attack.

"An eyewitness description of the body given to the ICRC mentioned a broken nose, several broken ribs and skin lesions on the face consistent with beatings."

The report describes prison guards opening fire with live ammunition during riots and escape attempts, on detainees who "were unarmed and did not appear to pose any serious threat to anyone's life."

According to the report, the Red Cross repeatedly drew allegations of mistreatment to the attention of the authorities. In some cases, they changed practices. For example, they stopped issuing wristbands marked "terrorist" to all foreign detainees.

Among the "serious violations of international humanitarian law," the report listed a failure to set up a system to notify family members of arrests.

"The uncaring behavior of the CF (Coalition Forces) and their inability to quickly provide accurate information on persons deprived of their liberty for the families concerned also seriously affects the image of the Occupying Powers among the Iraqi population," it said.

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It seems like the worse stuff is slowly coming out...

Note, the report that a majority of these "prisoners" are actually innocent and mistakenly captured.


Red Cross: Most U.S.-held Iraqis arrested by mistake

Monday, May 10, 2004 Posted: 2:25 PM EDT (1825 GMT)

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As President Bush on Monday promised "a full accounting for the cruel and disgraceful abuse of Iraqi detainees," a Red Cross report accused U.S. troops of holding mistakenly arrested Iraqis and said their treatment was "tantamount to torture."

Bush, who has not directly responded to the Red Cross report, spoke after a Pentagon briefing with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, currently under fire for the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at the hands of U.S. military jailers.

The leaked report from February by the International Committee of the Red Cross found that up to 90 percent of Iraqis held by U.S. and allied troops have been arrested by mistake, and those considered likely intelligence sources faced coercion that in some cases was "tantamount to torture."

"In certain cases, such as in Abu Ghraib military intelligence section, methods of physical and psychological coercion used by the interrogators appeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel to obtain confessions and extract information," the report said.

After Bush met at the Pentagon with Secretary of State Colin Powell, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, CIA Director George Tenet and Central Command's Gen. John Abizaid via satellite, he delivered his statement to reporters.

Bush praised Rumsfeld saying, "You are doing a superb job. You are a strong secretary of defense, and our nation owes you a debt of gratitude."

Senate Armed Services committee sources said that Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba, author of a leaked internal report on abuses at U.S.-run prisons in Iraq, was to testify Tuesday.

Taguba concluded in early April that U.S. military police in Iraq inflicted "sadistic, blatant and wanton criminal abuse" on prisoners in their custody numerous times.

Seven soldiers face criminal charges in the case, and six officers have received career-ending reprimands.

Earlier this month, photographs were leaked to the media of naked, hooded Iraqi prisoners being sexually humiliated, prompting Bush to publicly declare he was sorry for their humiliation.

Bush may be bracing for more leaked photos -- and perhaps videos -- of the prison abuses. Photos have been trickling out through various media outlets over the past couple of weeks. (Gallery: Abuse at Abu Ghraib -- contains graphic content, viewer discretion advised)

The latest photo to surface is included in a New Yorker magazine article by Seymour Hersh this week. The photo shows American guards holding back leashed dogs near a naked prisoner.

The photo is one of 20 pictures Hersh says were taken by a soldier in one of the MP units at the prison.

"[The prisoner's] hands are clasped behind his neck and he is leaning against the door to a cell, contorted with terror, as the dogs bark a few feet away," Hersh writes in the article.

"In another, taken a few minutes later, the Iraqi is lying on the ground, writhing in pain, with a soldier sitting on top of him, knee pressed to his back. Blood is streaming from the inmate's leg."

Hersh reports that military commanders did nothing about allegations of abuse from the International Committee of the Red Cross until a military policeman turned over a computer disk containing images of prisoners forced to simulate homosexual acts while American soldiers watched. Journalist: Pentagon culture led to prison abuse

Appearing on CNN's "American Morning," an attorney for Pfc. Lynndie England, said they were "staged" by intelligence officials who were running Abu Ghraib at the time.

England was photographed holding what appears to be a leash attached to the neck of a naked Iraqi prisoner. She faces four chargers including committing an indecent act and assaulting Iraqi detainees on multiple occasions.

"They are psychological operations photos," said attorney Giorgio Ra'Shadd. "Those were instructed, and the ones that were not specifically instructed were inferred by the civilian intelligence people who took control." ( Female soldier in abuse photos charged)

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