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The notorious Abu Ghraib Prison, centre of torture and mass executions under Saddam Hussein, is yet again a prison cut off from the outside world. On 13 June there was a protest in this prison against indefinite detention without trial. Troops from the occupying powers killed one person and wounded seven.
~ Abdel Salam Sidahmed

The Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal was a 2004 scandal after the torture of Iraqi prisoners in Abu Ghraib prison by US troops and CIA agents during the war against Saddam Hussein was exposed.

Authorization of torture

On May 22nd 2004, a memorandum was issued within the US military from an unidentified official referring to an Executive Order sanctioning the use of torture in prisons such as Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and Abu Ghraib, Iraq. Torture methods sanctioned included sleep deprivation, hooding prisoners, playing loud music, removing all detainees' clothing, forcing them to stand in "stress positions", and setting dogs on them. An investigation by The Washington Post after the fact later confirmed that lieutenant general Ricardo Sánchez had authorized the use of sleep deprivation, burning or freezing, dogs and sensory deprivation on prisoners. Another investigation by the New Yorker later resulted in allegations that Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had authorized the use of torture, although this was never confirmed.

Instances of torture

  • The first recorded instance of torture in Abu Ghraib occurred in 2003 when prisoner Manadel al-Jamadi was reportedly stripped naked from the waist down and had a bag forced over his head before being interrogated by Thomas Pappas for the location of some alleged hidden weapons. He was tortured by being hanged by his wrists from a barred window, and eventually died under interrogation. Soldiers Sabrina Harman and Charles Graner later took selfies with al-Jamadi' s corpse, both of them giving the thumbs-up sign.
  • Several prisoners were forced to masturbate by soldiers such as Ivan Frederick.
    • Frederick also punched a man in the chest so hard he almost suffocated.
  • One prisoner was allegedly sodomized with a chemical light and a broomstick.
  • Many prisoners were photographed being raped, sodomized, forced to perform oral sex on each other or otherwise sexually violated.
  • Prisoner Ameen Saeed Al-Sheik claimed that:
They said we will make you wish to die and it will not happen ...They stripped me naked. One of them told me he would rape me. He drew a picture of a woman to my back and made me stand in shameful position holding my buttocks. "Do you pray to Allah?' one asked. I said yes. They said, '[Expletive] you. And [expletive] him.' One of them said, 'You are not getting out of here healthy, you are getting out of here handicapped. And he said to me, 'Are you married?' I said, 'Yes.' They said, 'If your wife saw you like this, she will be disappointed.' One of them said, 'But if I saw her now she would not be disappointed now because I would rape her.' " ...They ordered me to thank Jesus that I'm alive...I said to him, 'I believe in Allah.' So he said, 'But I believe in torture and I will torture you."
  • Former Abu Ghraib detainees testified that they were urinated on, beaten, burned with phosphoric acid and dragged through the prison with ropes attached to their legs or genitals.
  • A female guard reported that prisoners were executed for minor misdemeanours, and that she was allowed to use venomous snakes on detainees.
  • Several photos were taken of naked detainees being forced into human pyramid positions while Harman, Graner and Lynndie England watched.
  • A man was photographed handcuffed to a bed with urine-soaked underwear covering his face.

Investigation and convictions

In June 2003, the human rights group Amnesty International accused the US military of torturing prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other detention centres across Iraq. In July, a press release by the group detailed instances of prisoners being denied clothing and proper toilets. The Associated Press also published a report featuring testimonies from freed inmates of Abu Ghraib talking about their experiences. Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of all detention centres in Iraq, claimed that all prisoners were treated humanely.

On January 1st, 2004, Ricardo Sánchez, who was in charge of the Iraq taskforce, ordered Major General Antonio Tabuga to investigate Abu Ghraib. In February, Tabuga submitted a report confirming that torture had taken place at the prison and naming seven main suspects: Jeremy Sivits, Charles Graner, Javal Davis, Lynndie England, Sabrina Harman, Megan Ambuhl and Ivan Frederick. In November 2004, Sánchez was named as the man behind the torture.

From May 19, 2004, to March 13, 2006, eleven soldiers were convicted of dereliction of duty, assault, prisoner maltreatment and various other offences. These included the seven soldiers named in the Tabuga report. Colonel Thomas Pappas was relieved of his command and fined eight thousand dollars for dereliction of duty, but did not face prosecution. Karpinski, who had been in command at Abu Ghraib, was demoted and later claimed she was being made a scapegoat. Another soldier, Lieutenant Colonel Steven Jordan, was acquitted.

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