From Elmira to Fallujah

Sorry I’ve been remiss in my posting duties. I was at a work conference on wrongful convictions in the US last weekend. It was inspiring to see all of the men and women exonerated (through DNA and non-DNA) but I couldn’t help but think of all the people left behind in US prisons. (Some have tried to estimate the number of innocents.)

And now, thanks to the War on Terror, we’ve exported our prison system that dehumanizes, degrades and tortures the guilty, along with the innocent. Read about how Charles Graner abused inmates in Pennsylvania — including a man later exonerated — and then in the prison that needs no introduction, Abu Ghraib.

Wikileaks has released a classified military memo exposing inhumane conditions in Iraq’s Fallujah jail:

The document, written last month by the commander of U.S forces in western Iraq, Maj. Gen. John Kelly, describes “unbelievable overcrowding, total lack of anything approaching even minimal levels of hygiene for human beings, no food, little water, no ventilation… There is zero support from the (Iraqi) government for any of the jails in Anbar. No funds, food or medical support has been provided from any ministry.” and says “We need to go to general quarters on this issue right now… To state that the current system is broken would erroneously imply that there is a system in place to be broken.”

The jail is situated next to the U.S. Joint Communications Center in downtown Fallujah. It was built in 2005 by U.S. contractors to house 110 prisoners, but now reportedly holds around 900, mostly awaiting trial or transfer to Baghdad.

The British Army is accused of torturing and abusing a respected Shia elder, Jabbir Hmoud Kammash, aged 70, and his family:

“The interrogator accused me of using my house for terrorist activities and asked me to confess. I explained that I am an elderly man in a house full of women and children, and the thorough search of the house had revealed no weapons at all.

“They re-hooded me and dragged me back to the open ground, where they made me sit on rough gravel on my knees. Every time I felt sleepy or tired and my back bent forward, a soldier kicked my back with his boots or the rifle butt to keep me awake. They were absolutely merciless considering my age.”

During the raid Mr Kammash’s son Ammar, 25, claims he was badly beaten in front of his mother because he had tried to reassure her there was nothing to worry about.

“Soldiers started beating me to stop me talking,” he said. “They were very selective in choosing the areas where they beat me – I was hit on my ribs, stomach, thighs and shoulders. It seemed to me that their intention was not to cause lasting or apparent damage to my body. They used their boots, fists, rifle butts and helmets.”

He claims that during his interrogation a British officer threatened that if he did not confess “they would bring my wife and sisters and rape them in front of me.”

Under a resolution proposed in the California senate, health professionals would be warned of the professional perils of participating in torture:

Under a resolution that state Sen. Mark Ridley-Thomas plans to put to a vote Thursday, California regulators would notify physicians and other health professionals that they could lose their license and be prosecuted by the state if they are involved in the torture of suspected terrorists…

The senator said physicians have reportedly advised interrogators whether prisoners were fit enough to survive “physical maltreatment, informed interrogators about prisoners’ phobias and other psychological vulnerabilities that could be exploited.”

April 6, 2008 - Posted by | Torture News | , , , , ,

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