Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Tortured to death

For over a year now the ACLU has been using America's Freedom Of Information Act to hold the US government to account over its treatment of detainees in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. So far, they've released documents showing that President Bush personally authorised the use of torture, that torture and abuse are widespread and routine across US operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, and that the US Army has failed to discipline soldiers and their commanders even when their own investigators found unequivocable evidence of mistreatment. Their latest batch is a compilation of autopsy and death reports for detainees who died in US custody. Out of 44 deaths, 21 were ruled to be homicides. Some were as a result of injuries sustained in combat, but several died during or shortly after interrogation. The autopsy reports show that they were "hooded, gagged, strangled, beaten with blunt objects, subjected to sleep deprivation and to hot and cold environmental conditions" - tortured - prior to death, and in many cases that this treatment was the direct cause of death. An example:

An Iraqi detainee (also described as a white male) died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated by “OGA.” He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries. Notes summarizing the autopsies record the circumstances of death as “Q by OGA, gagged in standing restraint.”

"OGA" means "other government agencies", usually CIA. And in this case, it seems they chained a man to a doorframe then beat the shit out of him to get him to talk.


A 27-year-old Iraqi male died while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body and hood. The exact cause of death was “undetermined” although the autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death. Notes say he “struggled/ interrogated/ died sleeping.”

Note here that both Donald Rumsfeld and General Ricardo Sanchez authorised the use of "environmental manipulation" (meaning freezing and heating) as an interrogation technique. In this case, their orders seem to have led directly to the death of a prisoner.

And a third (from the autopsy summary rather than the press release):

Iraqi National male was captured by Navy Seal Team #7 and resisted aprehension. External injuries including multiple contusions are consistent with injuries sustained during apprehension. Fractures of the ribs and a contusion of the left lung imply significant blunt force injuries of the thorax and likely resulted in impaired respiration. Ligature marks of the wrists and ankles. Remote [in time - I/S] gunshot would of torso. No significant natural diseases identified. According to investigating agents, during interrogation of the detainee, a hood made of synthetic material was placed over the head and neck of the detainee. He died while detained at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Cause of death: Blunt force injuries complicated by compromised respiration. Manner of Death: Homicide.

Other documents refer to this man as being questioned by "OGA" and Navy Seals and dying during interrogation.

These three men, and others besides, were tortured to death by US forces as part of the "war on terror", in clear violation of both international and US law. But rather than prosecutions, the Bush Administration's response is to seek to explicitly permit the CIA and those engaged in "counterterrorism operations" to use torture and inhuman treatment. I think that speaks for itself about how far the US has fallen from its previously high ideals...