Abu Ghraib Exonerations Draw Fire
In a memo dated September 14, 2003, Sanchez authorized using guard dogs to exploit “Arab fear of dogs.”
WASHINGTON, April 23, 2005 (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – The US army’s decision on Friday, April 23, to exonerate four senior brass, including the former top US commander in Iraq, of any wrongdoing in the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal, drew fire from human rights watchdogs.
“What this decision unfortunately continues is a pattern of exoneration and indeed promotion for many of the individuals at the heart of the torture scandal,” Amnesty International spokesman Alistair Hodgett told Reuters.
A 10-member army investigative team found that Let. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, who commanded US troops in Iraq until the summer of 2004, and three top aides had not committed dereliction of duty and should not face criminal or administrative punishment.
The investigators even justified his action by saying he had to fight an increasing “insurgency” – a term used to refer to anti-occupation attacks - and that he faced pressure to find then-fugitive deposed Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
The other senior officers exonerated by the investigation were: Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Sanchez's former top deputy; Maj. Gen. Barbara Fast, formerly Sanchez's top intelligence official; and a colonel who served as Sanchez's top legal adviser.
But the investigation found that “allegations of dereliction of duty were substantiated” in the case of Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who had commanded the 800th Military Police Brigade at the heart of the Abu Ghraib abuse.
Karpinski will not face criminal charges but has received an official letter of reprimand from a senior Army general and has been relieved of her command.
She told the BBC last year that had been made a “convenient scapegoat” for abuse ordered by others at the top, including Sanchez.
The Washington Post
revealed last June that Sanchez gave free reign
to US officers in charge of Abu Ghraib to adopt various torture and abuse tactics used at the infamous Guantanamo detention camp.
A Sept. 14, 2003, memo signed by Sanchez that was made public last month showed he authorized prisoner interrogation tactics more harsh than accepted Army practice, including using guard dogs to exploit “Arab fear of dogs.”
Hodgett said the decision continues “promotion for many of the individuals at the heart of the torture scandal”.
The London-based Amnesty International called for an independent probe into the Abu Ghraib grisly practices, which has damaged US prestige worldwide.
“It only serves to underscore the desperate need for an independent investigation that will scrutinize the policy decisions and the individuals who made and implemented them,” Hodgett said.
He added that this “will expose the truth and ensure that the US can once again criticize other nations for their use of torture without being accused of hypocrisy.”
The results of the investigation were made public days before the one-year anniversary of the publication of the first photographs
depicting US forces sexually humiliating and physically abusing Iraqi prisoners at the jail on the outskirts of Baghdad.
The scandal triggered international criticism of the US. Since then, numerous cases of detainee abuse have surfaced.
A US soldier making her presence in most of the Iraqi abuse photos said she was instructed by her commanders to pose for photographs with naked Iraqi detainees.
Human rights groups and other critics have blamed the abuse on actions by top US commanders in Iraq, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other Bush administration officials.
In the first legal action against a senior US official on the abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, two US human rights groups filed a lawsuit against Rumsfeld for his “direct responsibility” in the illegal torture and prisoners' abuses.
The lawsuit was filed by the two groups on behalf of eight detainees, four Iraqis and four Afghans, who were subjected to torture, beatings, cutting with knives, assault, sexual humiliation, mock executions and other illegal treatment.