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Pentagon to release prisoner abuse photos

Latest update : 2009-04-24

The Pentagon is preparing to release 'hundreds' of images showing prisoners in Iraqi and Afghan prisons being abused by US personnel during the Bush administration, in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

AFP - The Pentagon will soon release "hundreds" of photographs showing alleged abuse by US personnel at prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan during the Bush administration, a US official said Friday.
   
"I think it will be in the hundreds," said the Pentagon official, speaking to reporters on condition of anonymity, referring to the number of photos to be released for the first time.
   
The Defense Department confirmed the Pentagon had agreed to release a "substantial" number of photographs by May 28 in response to a long-running Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by the New York-based rights group, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
   
The photographs come from more than 60 criminal investigations from 2001-2006 of military personnel suspected of abusing detainees, the defense official said.
   
But the Pentagon rejected the portrayal of the photos by the ACLU as showing widespread abuse of detainees.
   
"What this demonstrates is that we have always been serious about investigating credible allegations of abuse," spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters.
   
He said the Pentagon's policy had always required "humane treatment" of detainees and those who had violated that policy had been investigated and disciplined.
   
As a result of Pentagon investigations of detainee abuse, more than 400 individuals were disciplined, ranging from prison sentences to demotions and letters of reprimand, he said.
   
Rights groups say senior officials under former president George W. Bush's administration who were allegedly responsible for promoting harsh interrogation tactics have not been held accountable.
   
ACLU staff attorney Amrit Singh said on Thursday "these photographs provide visual proof that prisoner abuse by US personnel was not aberrational but widespread, reaching far beyond the walls of Abu Ghraib."
   
The Iraqi prison became infamous after photographs showing Iraqi detainees being humiliated and abused by their US guards were published in 2004.
   
In addition to at least 44 photos cited in the court case, a "substantial number of other images" were also being processed for release, the Department of Justice wrote in a letter to a US federal court.
   
Whitman suggested that the decision to release the photos was partly driven by the state of the lawsuit, in which the government's arguments against releasing the images had mostly failed to sway federal judges.
   
"This was a mature legal proceeding," Whitman said. "It had run its course for a good bit of time."
   
The former Bush administration had refused to release the images to the public, arguing that the disclosure would fuel outrage and violate US obligations toward detainees under the Geneva Conventions.
   
The Obama administration released four sensitive memos last week that blew the lid on harsh CIA terror interrogations approved by the previous government, including the use of insects, simulated drowning and sleep deprivation.
   
But Obama has said that CIA officers involved in interrogations should not be prosecuted as they were acting on orders and legal advice.
   
Obama has faced criticism from both ends of the political spectrum over the issue, with rights groups demanding prompt prosecution of former Bush administration officials and conservatives charging the move had endangered national security.
 

Date created : 2009-04-24

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