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IN THE NEWS - Investigative Reports on Iraq's Abu Ghraib Prison - 2004-08-28

Broadcast: August 28, 2004

This is Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

This week, there were two reports on the treatment of Iraqis by American troops at the Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad. Both reports said responsibility for the abuses that took place was not limited to low-level guards. But neither investigation found any orders to mistreat prisoners.

Army investigators found that twenty-three members of military intelligence and four civilian workers were directly involved in abuse. These findings could result in administrative or criminal charges. Eight other people, including two civilians, were found not to have reported cases of abuse.

The Army report places blame mainly on a lack of training among the troops and a lack of leadership by their commanders. It says rules for questioning prisoners were sometimes unclear.

In April, pictures from Abu Ghraib were made public. Some showed prisoners forced into painful positions. Others showed men unclothed and placed on top of one another. Still others showed the use of dogs to threaten prisoners.

The Army investigators found that troops hid eight Iraqi prisoners from the International Committee of the Red Cross. One prisoner later died.

General Paul Kern led the investigation by three Army generals. They discovered what he called "serious misconduct and a loss of moral values."

Criminal cases are being heard against six military police officers in Iraq. Their lawyers have argued that the soldiers were following orders from military intelligence officers and civilian contractors. One soldier has pleaded guilty and was sentenced to a year in prison.

Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez was the top American commander in Iraq at the time. He was criticized for leadership failures, but not found directly responsible for the abuses. Four high-level military officers, however, face possible administrative charges.

On Friday the New York Times described some parts of the Army report that were not made public. These reportedly say that General Sanchez approved the use of some severe methods to get information from prisoners in Iraq. The newspaper says these interrogation methods were meant to be limited to prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and Afghanistan.

The other report this week came from an independent committee led by former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger. The committee examined the policies for people captured in Iraq and Afghanistan. It says there was no evidence of any policy to abuse prisoners. Still, it says top civilian and military officials in the Defense Department share part of the blame for what happened.

The report says it is clear that pressures for additional intelligence resulted in stronger interrogation methods. But it says there are signs that the Department of Defense is now "on the path" to dealing with the failures that led to the abuses.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.