The American Civil Liberties Union today made public an analysis of new and previously released autopsy and death reports of detainees held in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, many of whom died while being interrogated, RAW STORY has learned. Their release follows.
The documents show that detainees were hooded, gagged, strangled, beaten with blunt objects, subjected to sleep deprivation and to hot and cold environmental conditions.
"There is no question that U.S. interrogations have resulted in deaths," said Anthony D. Romero, Executive Director of the ACLU. "High-ranking officials who knew about the torture and sat on their hands and those who created and endorsed these policies must be held accountable. America must stop putting its head in the sand and deal with the torture scandal that has rocked our military."
The documents released today include 44 autopsies and death reports as well as a summary of autopsy reports of individuals apprehended in Iraq and Afghanistan. The documents show that detainees died during or after interrogations by Navy Seals, Military Intelligence and "OGA" (Other Governmental Agency) -- a term, according to the ACLU, that is commonly used to refer to the CIA.
According to the documents, 21 of the 44 deaths were homicides. Eight of the homicides appear to have resulted from abusive techniques used on detainees, in some instances, by the CIA, Navy Seals and Military Intelligence personnel. The autopsy reports list deaths by "strangulation," "asphyxiation" and "blunt force injuries." An overwhelming majority of the so-called "natural deaths" were attributed to "Arteriosclerotic Cardiovascular Disease."
While newspapers have recently reported deaths of detainees in CIA custody, today's documents show that the problem is pervasive, involving Navy Seals and Military Intelligence too.
The records reveal the following facts:
· A 27-year-old Iraqi male died while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body and hood. The exact cause of death was "undetermined" although the autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death. Notes say he "struggled/ interrogated/ died sleeping." Some facts relating to this case have been previously reported. (In April 2003, Secretary Rumsfeld authorized the use of "environmental manipulation" as an interrogation technique in Guantánamo Bay. In September 2003, Lt. Gen. Sanchez also authorized this technique for use in Iraq. Although Lt. Gen. Sanchez later rescinded the September 2003 techniques, he authorized "changes in environmental quality" in October 2003.)
· An Iraqi detainee (also described as a white male) died on January 9, 2004, in Al Asad, Iraq, while being interrogated by "OGA." He was standing, shackled to the top of a door frame with a gag in his mouth at the time he died. The cause of death was asphyxia and blunt force injuries. Notes summarizing the autopsies record the circumstances of death as "Q by OGA, gagged in standing restraint." (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Abdul Jaleel.)
· A detainee was smothered to death during an interrogation by Military Intelligence on November 26, 2003, in Al Qaim, Iraq. A previously released autopsy report, that appears to be of General Mowhoush, lists "asphyxia due to smothering and chest compression" as the cause of death and cites bruises from the impact with a blunt object. New documents specifically record the circumstances of death as "Q by MI, died during interrogation."
· A detainee at Abu Ghraib Prison, captured by Navy Seal Team number seven, died on November 4, 2003, during an interrogation by Navy Seals and "OGA." A previously released autopsy report, that appears to be of Manadel Al Jamadi, shows that the cause of his death was "blunt force injury complicated by compromised respiration." New documents specifically record the circumstances of death as "Q by OGA and NSWT died during interrogation."
· An Afghan civilian died from "multiple blunt force injuries to head, torso and extremities" on November 6, 2003, at a Forward Operating Base in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Abdul Wahid.)
· A 52-year-old male Iraqi was strangled to death at the Whitehorse detainment facility on June 6, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. His autopsy also revealed bone and rib fractures, and multiple bruises on his body. (Facts in the autopsy report appear to match the previously reported case of Nagm Sadoon Hatab.)
The ACLU has previously released autopsy reports for two detainees who were tortured by U.S. forces in Bagram, Afghanistan, believed to be Mullah Habibullah and an Afghan man known as Dilawar.
"These documents present irrefutable evidence that U.S. operatives tortured detainees to death during interrogations," said Amrit Singh, an attorney with the ACLU. "The public has a right to know who authorized the use of torture techniques and why these deaths have been covered up."
The documents were released by the Department of Defense in response to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights, Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense and Veterans for Peace. The New York Civil Liberties Union is co-counsel in the case.
As part of the FOIA lawsuit brought by the ACLU, a federal judge recently ordered the Defense Department to turn over photographs and videotapes depicting the abuse of prisoners held by the United States at Abu Ghraib. That decision has been stayed until October 26. The government has not yet indicated whether it is going to appeal the court's decision.
The FOIA lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Singh, Jameel Jaffer, and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU; Arthur Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; and Barbara Olshansky of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
To date, more than 77,000 pages of government documents have been released in response to the ACLU's Freedom of Information Act lawsuit. The ACLU has been posting these documents online at www.aclu.org/torturefoia.