Thursday, November 24, 2005

Getting away with murder

Mark Swanner is a murderer. In 2003, the CIA interrogator tortured an Iraqi prisoner to death in Abu Ghraib prison. And yet he continues to walk free, because the US government refuses to prosecute him.

The full details are in an in-depth article from the New Yorker. The prisoner's name was Manadel al-Jamadi. You may recognise him in this photograph:


(He's easier to recognise if you imagine a grinning sadist giving a thumbs-up over his corpse).

Al-Jamadi was captured by Navy SEALs on November 4th, 2003, and after a "roughing up" (in which six of his ribs were broken), taken to Abu Ghraib and handed over to the CIA. Guards under the direction of Mark Swanner handcuffed his arms behind his back to a window five feet above the ground - a technique known as "Palestinian hanging" (a variant of strapado which causes intense pain, possible dislocation of the shoulders, and eventual death by asphyxiation, in much the same way as crucifixion). 45 minutes later, he was dead. The guards called to assist when he stopped responding found him hanging with all his weight on his hands and wrists; one noted that he

“had never seen anyone’s arms positioned like that, and he was surprised they didn’t just pop out of their sockets.”

When the body was lowered to the floor, “blood came gushing out of his nose and mouth, as if a faucet had been turned on”. Attempts were made to surreptitiously dispose of the corpse, and some evidence (including the bloodied hood that had covered al-Jamadi's face) was destroyed - but the body was eventually autopsied, and the death labelled a homicide. The pathologist performing the autopsy was not told of the circumstances of al-Jamadi's death, and judged that he had died of “compromised respiration” and “blunt force injuries”. But experts approached by the New Yorker are clear; while al-Jamadi's beating was a contributing factor, the cause of death was asphyxiation caused by the way in which he had been hung. The man had been tortured to death.

An investigation was eventually begun, and an internal CIA inquiry judged that there was "possible criminality" involved - torturing someone to death, even outside US borders, violates numerous US laws. The case was forwarded to the justice department, but despite a clear case to answer and witnesses willing to testify, no charges have been laid - and given the current administration's attitude to torture, none are likely to be. A prosecution would raise too many questions, and put too many officials on the spot about exactly how much they had approved, for the Administration to risk it. And so there is no justice for Manadel al-Jamadi, and Mark Swanner gets to get away with murder.

He'd just better not leave the country, that's all.


I don't believe in the death penalty, and yet, in this case, if everything is proved in a Court of Law and Mark Swanner is found guilty of directing that this person be hung by his wrists behind his back and not released until he died, then I would wish that Mark Swanner himself be hung by his wrists and not released until he himself died.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/13/2007 07:26:00 AM