May 20, 2004  
Volume 98, Issue 01  

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NEWS

Update: Iraq prison abuse scandal

WASHINGTON (CP) — Key U.S. generals said Wednesday there may be more criminal charges in the Iraq prison abuse scandal and denied that tough interrogation tactics were endorsed by the Pentagon.

‘‘Things don’t have to go all the way to the top to be approved,’’ said Gen. John Abizaid, head of U.S. Central Command. ‘‘It’s our responsibility.’’

Abizaid, appearing before the Senate armed services committee, acknowledged that at least 75 cases of abuse plus a number of wrongful deaths have been investigated in Iraq and Afghanistan since December 2002.

‘‘It’s clear that there was some breakdown in the process,’’ he told senators. ‘‘This system is broken. We’ve got to fix it.

‘‘I don’t believe that a culture of abuse existed in my command. I believe that we had isolated incidents that have taken place.’’

The committee is trying to determine how high up the blame should fall. The Pentagon continues to deny newspaper reports that U.S. Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld approved a secret interrogation program for Iraqi prisoners.

Lt.-Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the top U.S. officer in Iraq, told the committee that prisoner abuse will be investigated up the chain of command, ‘‘and that includes me.’’

Sanchez also denied knowing that army officials tried late last year to restrict inspections of Abu Ghraib prison by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A New York Times report Wednesday said the agency complained in writing Nov. 6 about abuses at the Baghdad-area prison after spot visits and that U.S. officials then said they’d have to start scheduling appointments.

‘‘I never approved any policy, procedure or requirement to do that,’’ said Sanchez.
The generals appeared before the Senate committee as a U.S. court martial in Baghdad sentenced the first soldier in the abuse scandal.

Specialist Jeremy Sivits received a penalty of a year in prison, a reduction in rank and a bad conduct discharge, the maximum allowed under the charges filed against him.

While the U.S. military began a criminal investigation of abuses in January, the extent of the scandal wasn’t clear until news media outlets published graphic pictures last month.

More photos have been found and U.S. legislators will be able to view them, said the Senate committee chairman, John Warner.

The anger they’ve provoked in Iraq has complicated U.S. efforts to quell violence and transfer partial sovereignty to an interim government at the end of June.

‘‘It is achievable,’’ said Abizaid, ‘‘but it needs to emerge soon as to who is going to be in charge, what their names are and what they’re going to do.’’

Three other American soldiers were arraigned on charges Wednesday. Several have blamed military intelligence officers for ordering them to ‘‘soften up’’ prisoners for interrogation at Abu Ghraib.

 

 

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