American Army Guards Beat Afghan Prisoners to Death
By Douglas Jehl, The New York Times
March 12, 2005
Forward coursey of Rick Stanley <email@example.com>
and Carl Worden <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Army Details Scale of Abuse of Prisoners in an Afghan Jail
Washington - Two Afghan prisoners who died in American custody
in Afghanistan in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and
beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths,
according to Army criminal investigative reports that have not yet been
made public.One soldier, Pfc. Willie V. Brand, was charged
with manslaughter in aclosed hearing last month in Texas in connection with
one of the deaths, another Army document shows. Private Brand, who acknowledged
striking a detainee named Dilawar 37 times, was accused of having maimed
and killed him over a five-day period by "destroying his leg muscle
tissue with repeated unlawful knee strikes."
The attacks on Mr. Dilawar were so severe that "even
if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated," the
Army report said, citing a medical examiner.
The reports, obtained by Human Rights Watch, provide the first
official account of events that led to the deaths of the detainees, Mullah
Habibullah and Mr. Dilawar, at the Bagram
Control Point, about 40 miles north of Kabul. The deaths took place
nearly a year before the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
Among those implicated in the killings at
Bagram were members of Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence
Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C. The battalion went on to Iraq,
where some members established the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib and
have been implicated in some abuses there.
The reports, from the Army Criminal Investigation Command,
also make clear that the abuse at Bagram went far beyond the two killings.
Among those recommended for prosecution is an Army military interrogator
from the 519th Battalion who is said to have "placed his penis along
the face" of one Afghan detainee and later to have "simulated
anally sodomizing him (over his clothes)."
The Army reports cited "credible information" that
four military interrogators assaulted Mr. Dilawar and another
Afghan prisoner with "kicks to the groin and leg, shoving or
slamming him into walls/table, forcing the detainee to maintain painful,
contorted body positions during interview and forcing water into his mouth
until he could not breathe."
American military officials in Afghanistan initially
said the deaths of Mr. Habibullah, in an isolation cell on Dec.
4, 2002, and Mr. Dilawar, in another such cell six days later, were
from natural causes. Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill,
the American commander of allied forces in Afghanistan at the time, denied
then that prisoners had been chained to the ceiling or that conditions at
Bagram endangered the lives of prisoners.
But after an investigation by The New York Times, the Army
acknowledged that the deaths were homicides. Last fall, Army investigators
implicated 28 soldiers and reservists and recommended that they
face criminal charges, including negligent homicide.
But so far only Private Brand, a military policeman from the
377thMilitary Police Company, an Army Reserve unit based in Cincinnati,
and Sgt. James P. Boland, from the same unit, have been
The charges against Sergeant Boland for assault and other
crimes were announced last summer, and those against Private Brand are spelled
out in Army charge sheets from hearings on Jan. 4 and Feb. 3 in Fort Bliss,
Tex.The names of other officers and soldiers liable to criminal charges
had not previously been made public.
But among those mentioned in the new reports is Capt.
Carolyn A. Wood, the chief military intelligence officer at Bagram.
The reports conclude that Captain Wood lied to investigators
by saying that shackling prisoners in standing positions
was intended to protect interrogators from harm. In fact,
the report says, the technique was used to inflict pain and sleep
deprivation. An Army report dated June 1, 2004, about Mr. Habibullah's
death identifies Capt. Christopher Beiring of the 377th Military
Police Company as having been "culpably inefficient in the
performance of his duties, which allowed a number of his soldiers to mistreat
detainees, ultimately leading to Habibullah's death, thus constituting negligent
Captain Wood, who commanded Company A in
Afghanistan, later helped to establish the interrogation and debriefing
center at Abu Ghraib. Two Defense Department reports have said
that a list of interrogation procedures she drew up there, which went beyond
those approved by Army commanders, may have contributed to abuses at Abu
Past efforts to contact Captain Wood, Captain Beiring and
Sergeant Boland, who were mentioned in passing in earlier reports, and to
learn the identity of their lawyers, have been unsuccessful. All have been
named in previous Pentagon reports and news accounts about the incidents
in Afghanistan; none have commented publicly. The name of Private Brand's
lawyer did not appear on the Army charge sheet, and military officials said
neither the soldier nor the lawyer would likely comment.
John Sifton, a researcher on Afghanistan
for Human Rights Watch, said the documents substantiated the group's own
investigations showing that beatings and stress positions were widely used,
and that "far from a few isolated cases, abuse at sites in
Afghanistan was common in 2002, the rule more than the exception."
"Human Rights Watch has previously documented, through
interviews with former detainees, that scores of other detainees were beaten
at Bagram and Kandahar bases from early 2002 on," Mr. Sifton said in
an e-mail message.In his own report, made public this week, Vice
Adm. Albert T. Church III cited the deaths of Mr. Habibullah and
Mr. Dilawar as examples of abuse that had occurred during interrogations.
Admiral Church said his review of the Army investigation had found that
the abuse "was unrelated to approved interrogation techniques."
But Admiral Church also said there were indications in both
cases "that medical personnel may have attempted to misrepresent the
circumstances of the death, possibly in an effort to disguise detainee abuse,"
and noted that the Army's surgeon general was reviewing "the specific
medical handling" of those cases and one other.
The most specific previous description of the cause of deaths
of the two men had come from Pentagon officials, who said last fall that
both had suffered "blunt force trauma to the legs," and that investigators
had determined that they had been beaten by "multiple soldiers"
who, for the most part, had used their knees. Pentagon officials said at
the time that it was likely that the beatings had been confined to the legs
of the detainees so the injuries would be less visible.
Both men had been chained to the ceiling, one at the waist
and one by the wrists, although their feet remained on the ground. Both
men had been captured by Afghan forces and turned over to the American military
Mr. Habibullah, a brother of a former Taliban commander, died
of a pulmonary embolism apparently caused by blood clots formed in his legs
from the beatings, according to the report of June 1, 2004. Mr. Dilawar,
who suffered from a heart condition, is described in an Army report dated
July 6, 2004, as having died from "blunt force trauma to the lower
extremities complicating coronary artery disease."
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