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8785Split Verdict at End of Abu Ghraib Trials

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  • World View
    Apr 1, 2008
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      Split Verdict at End of Abu Ghraib Trials
      By Andrew Gray
      Reuters
      http://www.reuters.com/article/topNews/idUSN2937009520070830


      With the end of the last court-martial linked to prisoner abuse at
      Iraq's Abu Ghraib jail, the Pentagon says it is confident justice has
      been done but rights groups see a failure to hold leaders accountable.

      Only one U.S. officer, Army Lt. Col. Steven Jordan, faced
      court-martial over the scandal. Jordan was acquitted on Tuesday of
      responsibility for abuse at the jail west of Baghdad.

      Jordan, who argued that he played no part in the abuse and that
      the military was trying to make him a scapegoat, was convicted only of
      disobeying an order not to discuss the investigation into the case. He
      was sentenced to a reprimand.

      Images of the abuse, including naked detainees stacked in a
      pyramid and others cowering before snarling dogs, became public in
      April 2004 and badly damaged the reputation of the U.S. military as it
      waged war in Iraq.

      Eleven lower-ranking soldiers have been convicted in military
      courts in connection with the physical abuse and sexual humiliation of
      detainees at Abu Ghraib.

      Two officers were disciplined by the Army but neither faced
      criminal charges or dismissal.

      Rights activists say that record is at odds with public pledges
      from top U.S. officials.

      "Watch how America will do the right thing," then-Secretary of
      State Colin Powell declared in May 2004.

      Powell said President George W. Bush would be "determined to find
      out where responsibility and accountability lie."

      Powell himself seems satisfied that justice has been done. "People
      were charged and brought before tribunals. The system worked," he said
      in a comment relayed to Reuters by his office.

      But John Sifton, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, said:
      "There's been huge gaps in the accountability process."

      Call For Independent Prosecutor

      Sifton said the military's court-martial system was ill-suited to
      dealing with the scandal, in part because procedures required approval
      from senior officers. He said the military should have appointed an
      independent prosecutor.

      "Since the military justice system has proven so poor at dealing
      with all this, our recommendation now is that an independent
      prosecutor in the Department of Justice be appointed," he added.

      The Pentagon defended the court-martial system and its role in
      investigating the abuses at Abu Ghraib.

      "People that have acted in ways that are inconsistent with our
      policies, our procedures, our values will be held to account and the
      way that you do that is through the Uniform Code of Military Justice,"
      spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

      "We should be confident ... given the rigors of the process, that
      it makes determinations that are appropriate," he said.

      But Allen Keller, an associate professor of medicine at New York
      University who is an expert on torture and has studied the Abu Ghraib
      scandal, said it was clear responsibility for the abuse went well
      beyond low-ranking soldiers.

      "The notion that what happened at Abu Ghraib is limited to a few
      bad apples on the night shift is absurd," he said.

      "Such lack of accountability sends a chilling message to the rest
      of the world."

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