Thursday, August 28, 2008

Iraqi Detainee Abuse Investigations on the Rise?

I ended the title of this post with a question mark because all I ever see are news reports about courts-martial, I don't claim to have any inside information about the recent number of detainee cases. But, my mass media informed perspective is that we have recently seen a rise in the number of pre-trial investigations and courts-martial based on detainee abuse/deaths in Iraq. I have absolutely no idea why we have seen a rise. Causes could be anything, maybe a statistical anomaly, an increased number of incidents, or more aggressive investigation and prosecution. Maybe we can get CAAFlog's resident Moneyball addict to run a WWBJ series on this issue.

The Army Times, and others, reported yesterday that an Art. 32 investigation into alleged detainee deaths in Iraq in 2007. According to reports, 3 non-commissioned officers (NCOs) allegedly killed at least 4 detainees near Baghdad in Spring 2007. The status of the NCO's cases wasn't exactly clear from the reports. The report focused on charges that were preferred against four other soldiers for alleged conspiracy, whose Art. 32 hearing wrapped up this week. Apparently Sgt. First Class Joseph P. Mayo and Sgt. Michael P. Leahy Jr., the platoon sergeant and squad leader, respectively, for Company D, First Battalion, Second Infantry, 172nd Infantry Brigade, signed confessions to the detainee killings. News reports of the incident have purportedly come from their confessions. Here is what the NYT had to say:
In March or April 2007, three noncommissioned United States Army officers, . . . killed four Iraqi prisoners with pistol shots to the head as the men stood handcuffed and blindfolded beside a Baghdad canal, two of the soldiers said in sworn statements. After the killings, the first sergeant — the senior non-commissioned officer of his Army company — told the other two to remove the men’s bloody blindfolds and plastic handcuffs . . .
We will continue to follow these cases and others we reported on earlier here (Sgts Weemer and Nelson Art. 32 hearing for detainee killings during the Battle for Fallujah in 2004), here (Army Art. 32 in Tikrit for Staff Sgt. Warner and 1st Lt Behenna accused in the 2008 killing of detainee Ali Mansur Mohamed), and here (Navy Art. 32, SCMs, and SPCMs for 2008 abuse at Camp Buca, Iraq). An update on the Weemer case, the North County Times reported that charges were referred against Weemer on Aug. 8, 2008.


Anonymous said...

My $.02 is that the cause is more aggressive investigation and prosecution. No commander wants to be the next Lieutenant Colonel Chessani or General (demoted to Colonel) Karpinski. Accordingly, detainee/civilian deaths receive much greater scrutiny than in the past.

Cully Stimson said...

I can provide some historical insight into this matter.

Among my other duties as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Detainee Affairs (2006-2007), I represented the United States before the United Nations “Committee against Torture” in May 2006 in Geneva, Switzerland. I led the delegation from the Department of Defense. The Legal Advisor to the Secretary of State, John Bellinger, led the U.S. delegation.

The public hearings took place on May 5th, and May 8th. Among other things, we were asked: how many investigations of detainee abuse had there been to date; how many criminal investigations related to detainee abuse had there been to date and; how many courts-martial had there been to date related to detainee abuse.

A Committee member (Mr. Mariño) asked us those questions because he had been given figures by certain NGO’s, and he wanted to follow up on those numbers.

The numbers they provided to Mr. Mariño were incorrect.

I testified on May 8, 2006 before the Committee and provided them with the actual numbers to date:

• Approximately 800 investigations into alleged detainee mistreatment, of which approximately 600 were criminal investigations. Many of those investigations resulted in a finding of no misconduct.
• The DOD took action in more than 270 of those cases, against more than 250 service members.
• As of May 8, 2006, 170 of those investigations remained open.

Human Rights Watch provided Committee members with the following information regarding courts-martial of service members and alleged detainee abuse: 54 courts-martial; 40 service members sentenced to prison; only a small percentage of convicted service members given long sentences, and; only 10 people sentenced to one year or more.

Again, the numbers they provided were incorrect.

The correct numbers, at that time, were:

• 103 courts-martial
• 89 service members were convicted; an 89% conviction rate
• 19 service members received sentences of 1 year or more
• More than 100 service members had received NJP
• More than 60 were reprimanded
• 28 service members were involuntarily separated from the service

I will update this blog as soon as I can get the numbers as of August 2008.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the military is investigating since MEJA wasn't so successful in Riverside, CA.