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Report details detainee abuse by US forces in Iraq

Written by: Staff
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WASHINGTON, June 17 (Reuters) US special operations troops kept some Iraqi detainees chained in a room with a diet of bread and water for as long as 17 days, according to a US military report made public under a court order.

The report by Army Brig Gen Richard Formica, dated November 8, 2004, but withheld by the Pentagon until now, examined in the wake of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal the treatment of detainees in Iraq by US special operations troops.

The heavily redacted report was turned over by the US government yesterday to the American Civil Liberties Union under court order as part of a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

It also described detainees being kept in very small cells, including one who was naked ''because he continually urinated on himself and his clothes,'' and exposed to loud music to prevent them from communicating and sleeping.

''The government's own documents demonstrate that the abuse of detainees in Iraq, Guantanamo Bay and Afghanistan was widespread and systemic.

''It shows that special operations task forces were repeatedly involved in detainee abuse incidents and they continued to escape scrutiny,'' said ACLU lawyer Amrit Singh.

''The US policy is to treat all detainees humanely,'' said Lt Col Mark Ballesteros, a Pentagon spokesman.

The report, Ballesteros added, ''covers prior events -- they are not new abuses -- and we have undertaken significant steps to investigate, hold accountable and change our operations as appropriate.'' The report described special operations troops, at a temporary holding facility in April 2004, keeping detainees in a room on a 3- or 4-foot chain, with a diet chiefly of bread and water, for up to 17 days.

But it concluded this diet was not intended as punishment and that, for short periods, eating just bread and water ''is sufficient to maintain good health and prevent the onset of nutritional deficiencies.'' 'TOO LONG' ''In my judgment, if true as alleged in the case of the one detainee, 17 days with only bread and water is too long,'' the report stated, but said he ''appeared in good health.'' The report cited a case in which detainees were kept at a special operations team's temporary holding facility in small cells -- measuring 20 inches by 4 feet by four feet -- for up to seven days, with at least one detainee kept naked.

It found that the cells fell short of minimum standards for detainee's quarters, called the removal of clothing unacceptable and said a week in such a cell was too long.

The report did not recommend discipline of US personnel and concluded the incidents were not the result of deliberate or malicious attempts by US forces to abuse detainees.

It called for corrective training and education in the principles of the Geneva Conventions and greater command oversight.

It concluded that while this kind of treatment was wrong, the special operations facilities lacked the resources to accommodate detainees.

Formica said he did not ''spot check'' detainee files for completeness and indicators of abuse did not ''conduct random interviews'' of detainees. ''I did not reinvestigate the underlying incidents,'' Formica wrote, relying instead on the military's own previous findings on the incidents.

Singh said the reach of the report appeared narrow, ''almost in a deliberate attempt to avoid the truth of the extent of detainee abuse.'' The inquiry was ordered in May 2004, weeks after the world first saw pictures of US forces abusing prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison, by Army Lt Gen Ricardo Sanchez, who the Army last year exonerated of wrongdoing relating to detainee abuse.

The government also turned over a separate report on the treatment of detainees by US forces in Afghanistan.

REUTERS SRS VC0930

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