Archive for Sunday, May 9, 2004

Military investigating 25 prison deaths

May 9, 2004


— They were shot during riots and while trying to escape. One passed out during an interrogation and died.

Some of the deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan have been ruled homicides. Others were attributed to natural causes. Many of the cases are unexplained.

Army officials say they are looking into at least 25 prisoner deaths since December 2002.

Army Provost Marshal Maj. Gen. Donald Ryder said last week that 12 deaths were the result of natural or undetermined causes, 10 were under investigation and three were classified as homicides.

One of those homicides was considered a justified shooting of an escaping prisoner. A second was a case of excessive force; the soldier was demoted and discharged.

The third, involving civilians, has been referred to the Justice Department.

The military has not provided details of the cases it is investigating.

The CIA's inspector general is conducting inquiries into the deaths of three prisoners that may have involved agency officers or contractors. At least one case also is under review by the Army.

It is unclear whether officials are investigating the deaths of more prisoners in those two countries.

The Associated Press compiled the following review of prisoner deaths reported in both countries, based on information from military and intelligence officials, and the Teguba report, which is classified, internal Army investigation into conditions at the Abu Ghraib prison in the Baghdad area.

Details about many of the cases are sketchy.

    This is a photo obtained by the New York Times from an undisclosed
source showing a U.S. soldier sitting on an Iraqi detainee
sandwiched between two stretchers at the Abu Ghraib prison in
Baghdad, Iraq.

    This is a photo obtained by the New York Times from an undisclosed source showing a U.S. soldier sitting on an Iraqi detainee sandwiched between two stretchers at the Abu Ghraib prison in Baghdad, Iraq.

  • Qaim, Iraq, Nov. 26, 2003: Maj. Gen. Abed Hamed Mowhoush, a former commander of Saddam Hussein's air defenses, loses consciousness and dies during interrogation after complaining he does not feel well. He was captured Oct. 5 during a raid. Military officials said he was believed to be playing a financial role in the resistance to the U.S. occupation. The cause of death and interrogation techniques are under investigation. Mowhoush's head was not hooded during questioning, the Army's 82nd Airborne Division said.

Mowhoush's death may have involved a CIA officer who is an interrogator. The CIA's inspector general is investigating.

  • Abu Ghraib, Nov. 24, 2003: Several prisoners rioted and guards opened fire, killing three detainees. Nine U.S. soldiers and nine prisoners were hurt.
  • Abu Ghraib, November 2003: A prisoner's death may have involved CIA personnel. The Army's Criminal Investigation Division has determined this death was a homicide and referred the matter to the Justice Department. Also investigating is the CIA's inspector general.
  • Undisclosed location, Iraq, September 2003: A soldier shoots and kills a prisoner who was throwing rocks at him. The soldier is charged for using excessive force, reduced in rank and dismissed from the military.
  • Kunar province, Afghanistan, June 21, 2003: An Afghan at a U.S. holding facility near Asadabad dies. He was captured on June 18; his death was announced on June 23. The military has said the cause of death is under investigation. This death may have involved a contractor working for the CIA. Intelligence officials say the case also is under investigation by the agency's inspector general.
  • Abu Ghraib, June 13, 2003: About 30 or 40 detainees riot and throw rocks at some guards, injuring one. Tower guards shoot at the rioters, killing one and injuring seven. Amnesty International identified the dead man as Ala'Jassem Sa'ad, a 22-year-old Iraqi, and quoted eyewitnesses as saying he was inside his tent when he was shot.

At this point, this appears to be a separate incident from the September 2003 shooting of a rock-throwing prisoner listed above, which was described by separate sources.

  • Camp Whitehorse, near Nasiriyah, Iraq, June 2003: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Christian Hernandez, a reservist, grabs detainee Nagem Sadoon Hatab, a 52-year-old former Baath Party official, by the neck, snapping a bone and killing him.

Hernandez was trying to move Hatab. Investigators believed the death was accidental. Hatab was left lying naked, covered in his own feces, for hours when he was found dead at the detention facility near Nasiriyah.

Hernandez and his superior officer, Maj. Clark A. Paulus, also a reservist, were charged with negligent homicide. Their commanding general dismissed those charges in April.

Paulus, the detention camp's commanding officer, instead faces general court-martial on a single charge of dereliction of duty, a charge of assault and two charges of cruelty and maltreatment.

Sgt. Gary Pittman, who was accused of karate-kicking Hatab in the chest, faces two charges of dereliction of duty and four of assault. Several other reservists faced lesser charges in connection with the mistreatment of detainees.

  • Iraq, March 29, 2003: A Marine shoots and kills an Iraqi prisoner who tried to take the Marine's gun. Officials determine the Marine acted in self-defense and the shooting was not investigated as a crime.
  • Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, Dec. 10, 2002: Dilawar, 22, an Afghan taxi driver, dies of "blunt force injuries" while in U.S. custody. This death -- classified as a homicide -- remains under investigation.
  • Bagram, Dec. 3, 2002: Mullah Habibullah, about 30, dies of "blunt force injuries" while in U.S. custody. This death -- classified as a homicide -- remains under investigation.
  • Unknown location and time within U.S. Central Command region: A soldier shoots and kills a fleeing prisoner. This is ruled as justified. This case was related by Ryder, but details were unavailable. The lack of specifics mean it could be the same death as one of the above cases.

Ryder also said 10 prisoner abuse investigations that did not result in deaths are moving ahead. The Army's acting secretary, Les Brownlee, said Friday that an additional 42 potential cases of misconduct against civilians occurred outside detention facilities and are being investigated.

They did not detail any of the cases.

Among the abuse investigations previously made public are:

  • Abu Ghraib, October-December 2003: Six enlisted soldiers with the 800th Military Police Brigade face possible courts-martial over allegations of abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners. Several other soldiers, including some senior officers, have been reprimanded or received administrative punishment. Other investigations are under way, including one into the 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, which oversaw the interrogation of many of the prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
  • Al-Taji, Iraq, Aug. 20, 2003: Army Lt. Col. Allen B. West, a battalion commander in the 4th Infantry Division, strikes prisoner Yahya Jhodri Hamoodi and threatens to kill him. He also fires a pistol near his head to scare him.

West is fined $5,000 and allowed to retire from the Army after pleading guilty to three counts of aggravated assault and one count of communicating a threat.

  • Camp Bucca, Iraq, May 12, 2003: Three Army reservists kicked prisoners and encouraged others to do so, according to a finding by Brig. Gen. Ennis Whitehead III. In January, the three reservists were discharged.

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