By Abdul Rahman / Peoples Dispatch
Hundreds of Iraqi prisoners kept in US detention centers in Iraq, including the largest facility Abu Ghraib, endured various forms of torture and abuse by the US armed forces between 2003 and 2009. However, even after two decades, none of these Iraqis have been given any kind of redressal or compensation.
The first major evidence was the leak of photographs from Abu Ghraib in April 2004, within a year of the occupation in March 2003 and the establishment of this detention facility in Baghdad. The photos as well as victims’ testimonies confirmed that various techniques of torture were used by US soldiers, including forcing detainees to remain naked, using dogs to attack them, as well as the use of water hoses, live fire, and electrocution. Some of the detainees were kept in solitary confinement naked for days and weeks despite the harsh winters.
Some of these techniques were later defended by US officials as “enhanced interrogation techniques.”
Torture in any form in prohibited under the Geneva conventions, the UN convention against torture, and other international laws. Even domestic US laws prohibit the use of torture.
After the incriminating photos surfaced, then-US President George Bush tried to dismiss the issue by saying that these were the acts of some individuals. While Bush offered an apology, his Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld promised compensation to the victims.
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However, none of the Iraqi victims have received any compensation so far and most of the attempts made by them to seek some kind of redressal have been either blocked or are still pending in the country’s legal framework.
No accountability, no redressal
According to a recent Human Rights Watch (HRW) report, only 97 soldiers—implicated in 38 cases between 2003 and 2005—have faced any kind of punishment related to torture, with just 11 being sent for court martial.
Investigations carried out by the US Army’s Criminal Investigative Division (CID) in most of the other cases were dismissive and attempted to save the face of the army.
No officer has ever been held accountable for these acts of torture. US authorities have repeatedly blocked victims trying to seek justice, and refused to admit that torture is widespread in the US armed forces and not limited to a few rogue individuals.
In fact, no one except the Pentagon knows the real extent of the torture that was committed by US armed forces in Iraq. The US refuses to release the hundreds of photos it claims to have in its possession in this regard. The US administration was forced to release some photos in 2014 after a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The Pentagon’s refusal to release all the photos is akin to censorship, depriving the people of knowing the full extent of the crimes committed by the US armed forces in Iraq, claims the ACLU and other civil rights organizations.
The web of detention centers run by the US and its allies in Iraq and the number of people detained in them was massive, pointing to the possibility of high occurrence of torture.
Around 100,000 Iraqis were officially held in Abu Ghraib between 2003 and 2009, when it was finally shut down. According to a Red Cross report published in 2004, between 70% and 90% of the detainees there were arrested by “mistake.”
While Abu Ghraib was the largest detention center, it was not the only one. There were several other detention centers created by the occupation forces across Iraq, some of them overt and others covert, known as “back sites,” in complete violation of all international laws.
As one of the victims of US torture in Iraq, Salah Hasan, told the The Intercept, “achieving justice begins with revealing all details about the torture and acknowledging them on the part of the United States, then giving reparations to the survivors who were tortured unjustly, for no reason.”