May 13, 2004 –
Conditions of and treatment during arrest
The report begins with an assessment of trends found in common among various reports of abductions by Coalition Forces:
- â€œArresting authorities [sic] entered houses usually after dark, breaking down doors, waking up residents roughly, yelling orders, forcing family members into one room under military guard while searching â€¦ breaking doors, cabinets and other property.â€�
- Arresting forces hooded the suspects and tied their hands with painful flexi-cuffs.
- Arresting forces sometimes abducted elderly, disabled or sick people.
- Treatment at point of arrest regularly included insults, the aiming of rifles at suspects, punching, kicking, and striking with rifles.
- â€œCertain [Coalition Forces] military intelligence officers told the ICRC that in their estimate between 70% and 90% of the persons deprived of their liberty in Iraq [by Coalition Forces] had been arrested by mistake.â€�
- Arresting forces almost never provided family members with information about who the arresting authorities were, where they were taking arrestees, what charges suspects were being held under, if any, or for how long they would be in custody.
- When Iraqis were captured at checkpoints or otherwise away from home, families were left to wonder if arrested persons were even alive and usually received no word from the arresting forces about the detained person or their whereabouts.
- Abductions by Coalition Forces in some cases amounted to the â€œde facto â€˜disappearanceâ€™â€� of a given arrestee, with no family contact or notification allowed for a period of months.
- Arresting parties were in numerous documented cases accused of stealing large amounts of cash and valuables from detainees.
Documented instances of mistreatment during transfer and custody
This is by no means a complete list, even from the limited report provided by the ICRC. These are just some of the cases of inmate torture documented by Red Cross personnel. None of these incidents has been proved in a court of law, at least not to the knowledge of the ICRC at the time of writing.
- Nine freshly arrested Iraqi men were forced to kneel while soldiers stamped on the backs of their necks. Their money was confiscated and not returned. One of the arrestees died of as a result of a severe beating. Two others were hospitalized with severe injuries, including massive bruising on the abdomen, buttocks, thighs, sides, wrists, nose and forehead determined by ICRC doctors to be consistent with accounts of beatings.
- In a separate incident, a man was hooded, handcuffed and made to lie face down on a hot surface while transported, resulting in burns that required 3 months of hospitalized treatment, including skin grafts and the amputation of a finger.
Treatment during interrogation
Persons arrested in connection with suspected security offenses or otherwise deemed to have intelligence value were â€œsystematicallyâ€� subjected to verbal, physical and psychological abuse by Coalition Forces, especially US personnel at US facilities, as part of what â€œappeared to be part of the standard operating procedures by military intelligence personnel.â€�
The most frequently alleged methods of torture included:
- Handcuffing with flexi-cuffs that caused long-term after effects, such as nerve damage
- Beatings with hard objects, including rifle and pistol butts
- Punching and kicking, especially to the legs, sides, lower back and groin
- Pressing the detaineeâ€™s face into the ground with boots
- Threats of reprisals against family members, transfer to Guantanamo Bay or imminent execution of the prisoner
- Stripping naked of prisoners for days at a time
- Being made to stand naked against a cell wall, handcuffed to the bars, paraded through wards naked, wearing womenâ€™s underwear, etc
- Holding in solitary confinement, sometimes for extremely long periods of time
- Food deprivation
- Water deprivation
- Sleep deprivation
- Forced stress positions, such as squatting, for prolonged periods
- Combinations of sensory deprivation and sensory overstimulation, such as hooding of inmates combined with prolonged exposure to direct sunlight in excess of 122 degrees F (50 degrees C) or exposure to loud noise
The report stresses that these methods of torture were used â€œin a systematic way to gain confessions and extract information or other forms of co-operation.â€� When questioned by ICRC personnel, a military intelligence officer referred to the methods as â€œpart of the [interrogation] process.â€�
Mistreatment and torture by Iraqi police
At one facility, a member of the US-installed Iraqi Police (IP) forces tortured prisoners by staging mock executions using an unloaded pistol. At the same facility, IP officers reportedly administered electrical shocks to prisoners.
On one occasion, an inmateâ€™s mother was allegedly brought and threatened with rape in front of her detained son. These techniques were all used to force the signing of confessions to be used against prisoners later in the event of a trial.
Treatment at â€œregular internment facilitiesâ€�
The ICRC refers to the treatment in facilities other than those where â€œhigh valueâ€� prisoners were kept or where prisoners were being interrogated, as â€œrespectful, with a few individual exceptionsâ€� which were â€œquickly reprimanded and disciplinedâ€� when reported.
But even here, ICRC inspectors personally witnessed Coalition personnel slapping prisoners, roughing them up, and pushing them around or to the ground as well as generally displaying â€œdisrespectful attitudes.â€� As punishment for various perceived infractions in such facilities, inmates were forced to squat or lie down in the sand under hot sun for hours at a time, as well as other acts. Guards at such facilities were, however, found to have generally avoided the use of collective punishment.
Placing inmates in harmâ€™s way
The report cites two significant ways in which Coalition Forces have placed inmates in significant danger.
- Prisoners kept outdoors Abu Ghraib were vulnerable to attacks on prisons, camps and bases by insurgent mortar and rocket fire. Numerous prisoners were killed or injured in such attacks, including five dead and 67 wounded in a single incident on August 16, 2003.
- Inmates who volunteered for work assignments were in at least one instance made to clean up garbage in an area where unexploded ordinance was mixed in with normal litter. What is thought to be a cluster bomb exploded, wounding three inmates severely. All three required leg amputations -- both legs for two of the inmates and the left leg of the third.
Interrogators employed a system of â€œdrip-fedâ€� rewards of items and privileges, granted to prisoners who cooperated to varying extents with their interrogators. Rewards included:
- Hygiene articles
- Cell lighting
- Access to showers
- Family phone calls
The ICRC found lasting psychological results of the treatment dealt prisoners at detention facilities. Some presented signs of concentration difficulties, memory problems, verbal expression difficulties, incoherent speech, acute anxiety reactions, and suicidal tendencies.
Other effects of prisoner mistreatment cited in the report include numerous cases of severe, permanent physical disability as well as death.
Previous ICRC actions and Coalition Forcesâ€™ improvements
The ICRC issued a number of reports to Coalition officials during 2003, detailing numerous allegations of documented abuse. In fact, by May 2003, when George Bush declared an end to â€œmajor combatâ€� in Iraq, the Red Cross had already documented (and notified Coalition officials of) more than 200 allegations of ill treatment of prisoners. The report notes some improvements that were made as a result of ICRC criticism. They are:
- Following a May 2003 report, the ICRC notes, the single improvement appreciated in subsequent inspections was that Coalition Forces stopped fastening bands inscribed â€œterroristâ€� to foreign detaineesâ€™ wrists.
- In July 2003, the ICRC sent a â€œworking paperâ€� to Coalition authorities detailing various extraordinary abuses at one facility, which included an inmate being urinated on, severely beaten and force-fed a baseball. Following that report, the inmates were moved to a different facility where their mistreatment â€œdeclined significantly and even stopped.â€�
- After the ICRC complained that prisoners exposed to mortar and rocket fire should be protected, US military police guards at Abu Ghraib began permitting inmates housed in tents to line the edges of their tents with sandbags. The report notes, however, that the sandbags were insufficient for protection from shelling.
Beyond the reportâ€™s limited scope
As wide-ranging and thorough as the ICRC report seems, nothing in its 24 pages refers to the specific incidents, or even the types of incidents, pictured in many of the photographs which have been leaked to the press in the past few weeks or other photos and videos that are in possession of the Pentagon but have to some extent been described to the media. There is no mention in the Red Cross report of inmates being forced into naked human piles, forced into sexual and mock sexual positions or forced to have sex with guards.