Saturday, June 21, 2008

Torture was routine, as is impunity

It is useful to keep in mind that the US-led project in Afghanistan is founded upon violations of international law and that the use of torture is apparently routine amongst (at least) our American and Afghan allies.

U.S. abuse of detainees was routine at Afghanistan bases
Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers

KABUL, Afghanistan, June 16 — American soldiers herded the detainees into holding pens of razor-sharp concertina wire, as if they were corralling livestock.

The guards kicked, kneed and punched many of the men until they collapsed in pain. U.S. troops shackled and dragged other detainees to small isolation rooms, then hung them by their wrists from chains dangling from the wire mesh ceiling.

Former guards and detainees whom McClatchy interviewed said Bagram was a center of systematic brutality for at least 20 months, starting in late 2001. Yet the soldiers responsible have escaped serious punishment.

The public outcry in the United States and abroad has focused on detainee abuse at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but sadistic violence first appeared at Bagram, north of Kabul, and at a similar U.S. internment camp at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan...

The eight-month McClatchy investigation found a pattern of abuse that continued for years. The abuse of detainees at Bagram has been reported by U.S. media organizations, in particular The New York Times, which broke several developments in the story. But the extent of the mistreatment, and that it eclipsed the alleged abuse at Guantanamo, hasn't previously been revealed.

Guards said they routinely beat their prisoners to retaliate for al Qaida's 9-11 attacks, unaware that the vast majority of the detainees had little or no connection to al Qaida.

Former detainees at Bagram and Kandahar said they were beaten regularly. Of the 41 former Bagram detainees whom McClatchy interviewed, 28 said that guards or interrogators had assaulted them. Only eight of those men said they were beaten at Guantanamo Bay.

Because President Bush loosened or eliminated the rules governing the treatment of so-called enemy combatants, however, few U.S. troops have been disciplined under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, and no serious punishments have been administered, even in the cases of two detainees who died after American guards beat them...

The most violent of the major U.S. detention centers, the McClatchy investigation found, was Bagram, an old Soviet airstrip about 30 miles outside Kabul. The worst period at Bagram was the seven months from the summer of 2002 to spring of 2003, when interrogators there used techniques that when repeated later at Abu Ghraib led to wholesale abuses...

The brutality at Bagram peaked in December 2002, when U.S. soldiers beat two Afghan detainees, Habibullah and Dilawar, to death as they hung by their wrists...Soldiers who served at Bagram starting in the summer of 2002 confirmed that detainees there were struck routinely.

"Whether they got in trouble or not, everybody struck a detainee at some point," said Brian Cammack, a former specialist with the 377th Military Police Company, an Army Reserve unit from Cincinnati. He was sentenced to three months in military confinement and a dishonorable discharge for hitting Habibullah...

The mistreatment of detainees at Bagram, some legal experts said, may have been a violation of the 1949 Geneva Convention on prisoners of war, which forbids violence against or humiliating treatment of detainees...

No U.S. military officer above the rank of captain has been called to account for what happened at Bagram...

Capt. Carolyn Wood, who led the interrogators at Bagram, was sent to Abu Ghraib in the summer of 2003 and assumed control of interrogation operations there that August.

A military investigation that followed the Abu Ghraib scandal — known as the "Fay-Jones Report" for the two generals who authored it — found that from July 2003 to February of 2004, 27 military intelligence personnel there allegedly encouraged or condoned the abuse of detainees, violated established interrogation procedures or participated in abuse themselves.

The abuse resembled what former Bagram detainees described.

A key factor in serious cases of abuse at Abu Ghraib, the report found, was the construction of isolation areas, a move requested by Wood, who said that "based on her experience" such facilities made it easier to extract information from detainees.

Wood remains an active-duty military intelligence officer. (link)
More from Lasseter:
Syed Ajan: Afghan district chief
Tom Lasseter, McClatchy Newspapers

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (June 11) - From beginning to end, Syed Ajan repeated it like a mantra: He was a district chief appointed by the Interior Ministry of the government of U.S.-backed Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

When U.S. soldiers arrested him in May 2003 in his house in Kunar province, he said he'd been the district chief for eight months and had documents to prove it.

After the soldiers took him to their base and, he said, beat him repeatedly, Ajan told them, between gasps and heaves, of his title...

Ajan is one of several former members of Karzai's government, a key U.S. ally in the battle against al-Qaida and the Taliban, whom American forces arrested and shipped to Guantánamo. All of those interviewed claim that tribal or political rivals set them up, a frequent occurrence in Afghanistan, where feuds simmer for centuries... (link)

No comments: