Death and Torture in U.S. Prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan

March 7, 2006

A group of human rights lawyers released a report on February 22 showing that nearly 100 people died while in U.S. custody in prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report, issued by the New York-based group "Human Rights First," analyzed military documents and press accounts of 98 deaths and concluded that torture by U.S. military personnel caused eight deaths and may have been responsible for four others.

According to the report, 34 detainee deaths fell under the military's definition of a homicide and the facts in another 11 cases suggested death resulted from physical abuse or harsh conditions of detention. The report also criticized military investigations of the deaths, including failure to interview key witnesses or collect and preserve evidence usable by prosecutors, poor military record-keeping and failures by some commanders to report deaths in a timely way. It said civilian policymakers have given unlawful guidance on detainee treatment.

"It's my opinion that torture became a common Army practice in Iraq because generals and colonels and majors allowed it to occur, even at times encouraged it. "Soldiers became torturers because their chain of command chose to look the other way," said retired Army Brig. Gen. David Irvine, an adviser to Human Rights First.

The report condemns the Bush administration, saying "only 12 detainee deaths have result-ed in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official" and "no civilian official or officer above the rank of major responsible for interrogation and detention practices has been charged in connection with the torture or abuse-related death of a detainee in U. S. custody."

An Italian news agency reports that on February 27, more than 1,000 prisoners in a jail in Kabul, Afghanistan rebelled in protest over maltreatment and overcrowding. The prisoners, being held without trial, demanded to be released or taken to court.

The prison was surrounded by hundreds of national police and U.S. troops. At least 4 inmates are reported killed and 38 injured.