Beaten To Death

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A leaked US Army Criminal Investigation Command report has revealed a catalogue of prisoner abuses, including two deaths, by the US military at Bagram airbase in Afghanistan.

Two Afghan detainees in US military custody at Bagram in 2002 died after being severely beaten as part of a pattern of abuse, the New York Times has reported, quoting the leaked document.

The two deaths were reported earlier but the graphic details of their abuse revealed in the latest documents, are bound to be embarrassing for the US, coming just after the reports of Koran desecration at Guantanamo that sparked riots in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The 2,000-page criminal investigation report on incidents at the Bagram prison camp near Kabul shows repeated incidents of abusive maltreatment of the kind that took place at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq which scandalised the world.

The report states: ‘Sometimes the torment seems to have been driven by little more than boredom, cruelty, or both.’

Over two years later, no one has been convicted for either death and only seven soldiers have been charged, including four last week.

Most of those who could still face legal action have have denied any wrongdoing, either in statements to investigators or in comments to a reporter.

Commenting on one of the deaths, Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Rouse, a coroner and a major at the time said: ‘I’ve seen similar injures in an individual run over by a bus.’

Rouse was referring to the case of Dilawar, a 22-year-old Afghan taxi driver detained on suspicion of involvement in a rocket attack on a US military base in the south-eastern province of Khost.

He received over 100 blows to the legs and an autopsy found that the tissue in his limbs had been pulverised.

By the time Dilawar underwent his final investigations, interrogators believed he was innocent, the report added.

Dilawar’s torture and subsequent death in December 2002 was similar to that of Habibullah, another Afghan, who died of a heart attack six days earlier.

The report said it was likely to have been caused by a blood clot produced by repeated blows to the legs.

Lieutenant General David Barno, former commander of US forces in Afghanistan, earlier claimed the two deaths were isolated cases, despite the fact that eight prisoners are known to have died in US custody.

The army criminal investigation report reveals quite a different story, despite the fact that many of the officers and soldiers interviewed in the Dilawar investigation said the large majority of detainees at Bagram were compliant and reasonably well treated.

In sworn statements to US army investigators, soldiers describe one female interrogator with a taste for humiliation stepping on the neck of one prostrate detainee and kicking another in the genitals, the New York Times reported.

Another shackled prisoner was forced to roll back and forth on the floor of a cell, kissing the boots of his two interrogators as he went.

Yet another prisoner was made to pick plastic bottle caps out of a drum mixed with excrement and water as part of a strategy to soften him up for questioning, the paper reported.

Last October, the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command concluded that there was probable cause to charge 27 officers and enlisted personnel with criminal offences in the Dilawar case ranging from dereliction of duty to maiming and involuntary manslaughter.

Fifteen of the same soldiers were also cited for probable criminal responsibility in the Habibullah case, the paper said.

The investigation into abuse of detainees in US military custody in Afghanistan conducted by General Charles H Jacobi in 2004 remains classified.

The US military refused to comment on the report yesterday, insisting that prisoners at Bagram, the main US detention facility in Afghanistan, are now being treated humanely.