US turns a blind eye to systematic torture and murder by its Iraqi allies

The Guardian, October 22 2010
This is an unedited version of the story published by The Guardian

American authorities in Iraq have failed to investigate hundreds of reports of detainees being abused, tortured, raped and even murdered by soldiers and police working with coalition forces.

The leaked Iraqi war logs disclose hundreds of grim reports, often supported by medical evidence, describing prisoners who are shackled, blindfolded, hung from the ceiling by their wrists or ankles and then subjected to relentless whipping, punching, kicking, electric shocks and other tortures. Six of the reports end with the apparent death of an abused detainee.

Some of the reports accuse American, British and other coalition troops of assaulting their prisoners but most of the incidents involve Iraqi police and soldiers, including named senior officers, some of whom are quoted attempting to justify the violence. The reports suggest that the abuse of detainees by Iraqi forces is systematic and normally unpunished.

The logs reveal that the coalition has a formal policy not to investigate any allegation of abuse involving Iraqi troops or police. In hundreds of cases where the coalition has obtained detailed evidence of vicious assaults, they record “no investigation is necessary” and simply pass reports to the same Iraqi units which are implicated in the violence. By contrast, all allegations involving coalition forces are subject to formal inquiries, run by the Pentagon’s criminal investigations department.

The leaked material includes references to at least six murders by security forces, none of which has previously been reported or even acknowledged by the coalition even though, as the leaked logs demonstrate, they have been in possesion of details. In no case is there any public report of anybody being convicted of any of the murders.

In the most recent case of murder, in December last year, the Americans were passed a video which, according to the log, showed Iraqi army officers executing a prisoner in Tal Afar, in northern Iraq: “The footage shows approximately 12 Iraqi Army soldiers. Ten IA soldiers were talking to one another while two soldiers held the detainee. The detainee had his hands bound… The footage shows the IA soldiers moving the detainee into the street, pushing him to the ground, punching him and shooting him.”

Headed ‘execution of detainee’, the log records that one of the officers in the video has been identified by name as a major who acts as an intelligence officer for the 9th motorised brigade of the Iraqi third army, which is based at al Kisik, just outside Tal Afar. It does not explain how the video came to be made, but it records that the execution occured on December 14 2009 and that, by December 23, the video had been passed to ‘MND-N’, the northern division of multi-national forces, based in Mosul, about 30 miles from Tal Afar.

In two other cases, post mortems revealed evidence of detainees dying by torture. On August 27th 2009, a US marine medical officer found “bruises and burns as well as visible injuries to the head, arm, torso, legs and neck” on the body of Jasim Mohammed al-Shiwai, who was said by police to have died by suicide. On December 3 2008, the body of Sheikh Bashir Ibrahim, who was said by police to have died of ‘bad kidneys’ was found to have “evidence of some type of unknown surgical procedure on (his) abdomen. The incision was closed by 3-4 stitches. There was also evidence of bruises on the face, chest, ankle and back of the body.”

Two other cases are specific but lack detail. An unnamed Iraqi army private who was accused of making threatening calls to his commander was found dead on August 6 2008 after eleven days in army custody. “There are allegations of torture as a contributing factor in this individual’s death,” the log records. A man named Manar Esmael Yousif Kalifa al Salmani is recorded to have died on January 2 2007 after he and a friend were arrested by police and beaten in a gymnasium and then in an abandoned house.

The final case is recorded as a revenge killing, on February 1 2006, when a named Iraqi soldier is said to have shot dead a man in custody, Saddam Hamadi Mustafa, because he blamed the man’s brother for his own brother’s death. Several of these incidents include references to investigations by Iraqi authorities. We can find no public record of anybody being charged or convicted in relation to any of the deaths.

Other logs refer to incidents where reports of murdered detainees are unresolved, including a case in November 2007 when three inmates vanished from the US prison at Camp Bucca, leaving no sign that they had escaped and leading US authorities to conclude that they were “either hidden in camp or dead and buried there.” They spent six days digging into the compound to a depth of eight feet but found no bodies.