According to report released yesterday by Human Rights First, a human rights advocacy organization based in the United States, nearly 100 detainees have died since August of 2002 in the United States “war on terror.” The report analyzes 98 deaths of which 34 are suspected or confirmed homicides according to the military’s own standards, 11 that are believed to have been caused by physical abuse or harsh detention conditions, and 8 that were caused due to torture. Moreover, for nearly half of the 98 deaths surveyed the cause of death remains officially undetermined or unannounced. Twenty deaths are profiled, including that of Manadel al-Jamadi whose death became known during the media attention on Abu Ghraib when pictures showing US soldiers giving a “thumbs-up” over his dead body were released.
The reports key findings include:
Commanders have failed to report deaths of detainees in the custody of their command, reported the deaths only after a period of days and sometimes weeks, or actively interfered in efforts to pursue investigations.
- Investigators have failed to interview key witnesses, collect useable evidence, or maintain evidence that could be used for any subsequent prosecution.
- Record keeping has been inadequate, further undermining chances for effective investigation or appropriate prosecution.
- Overlapping criminal and administrative investigations have compromised chances for accountability.
- Overbroad classification of information and other investigation restrictions have left CIA and Special Forces essentially immune from accountability.
- Agencies have failed to disclose critical information, including the cause or circumstance of death, in close to half the cases examined;
- Effective punishment has been too little and too late.
While the report offers a series of recommendations to prevent detain deaths and improve the manner in which the military deals with such deaths, according to Human Rights First only 12 of the detainee deaths have resulted in punishment for US officials. In the 34 homicide cases, criminal charges were recommended by investigators in only two-thirds of cases and charges were brought in less than half of the cases. Moreover, no CIA agents have faced charges despite their implication in several detainee deaths and among deaths caused by torture, only half have resulted in punishment with the longest sentence received being five months in jail.