Saturday, June 03, 2006

A bad joke

Once again, a US military jury has effectively endorsed abuse. Yesterday, Sgt Santos Cardona was convicted on two charges relating to abusing detainees with dogs at Abu Ghraib prison. His sentence? Demotion, a fine, and 90 days hard labour without confinement. His defence attorney's reaction says all that needs to be said:

It wasn't an acquittal but it was pretty darn good

This is simply a bad joke which shows exactly how "serious" the US is about punishing those responsible for torture and abuse. And it does not bode well for seeing justice for the Haditha massacre or any of the other atrocities committed by US forces in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Human Rights First's Hina Shamsi raises an important point: the low sentences handed out for torture, abuse and even murder by US military juries are predicated on a confusing command environment in which soldiers were not properly trained and "the rules were unclear" - in other words, on it being the fault of the officers who allowed this to occur, rather than the mooks who were waving dogs at people, stacking them in pyramids, and suffocating them to death. Firstly, this suggests that the US needs far clearer rules on what is and isn't allowed; unfortunately, they are apparently still debating whether those new guidelines should allow the torture and abuse of "enemy combatants" or not (the same position which got them into this mess in the first place). Secondly, if juries are finding that these atrocities are partly the responsibility of officers, shouldn't that be followed up with prosecutions for dereliction of duty, rather than giving those officers a free pass...?