One Year After Release of Notorious Abu Ghraib Photos, Government Fails to Hold Senior Military Leaders Accountable, ACLU Says

April 27, 2005 12:00 am

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Statement of ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero

Contact: media@aclu


NEW YORK – One year ago this week, the world recoiled at the release of photographs depicting members of the U.S. military degrading and abusing Iraqi detainees. The stark images of men being threatened with dogs, mock electrocutions and simulations of rape will forever remain one of the lowest moments in the history of our nation.

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Anthony Romero on PBS “NOW”


Anthony Romero on CBS “60 Minutes”


> Letter to Attorney

General calling for special counsel


Read government documents on torture


About the lawsuit against Rumsfeld

While many Americans would like to believe that the abuse of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib involved only the horrific acts of a few poorly trained soldiers, the fact is that the torture and abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantánamo was widespread and systematic. The roots of the conduct can clearly be traced to a series of administration policies designed to insulate the treatment of military detainees from public scrutiny, judicial review and ultimately from the rule of law.

Yet a year after the release of the photos, top officials have not been held accountable, while low-level members of the military have been prosecuted and an unwarranted cloak of secrecy continues to shroud the treatment of prisoners. Just last week, an internal Army investigation cleared four of the five senior Army officers suspected of wrongdoing in the abuse of detainees held by the Army in Abu Ghraib and elsewhere. These findings demonstrate that the only way for America to regain the moral high ground is for the government to appoint a special counsel who is not beholden by rank or party and who is able to look up the military chain of command and hold officials accountable.

In addition to calling for a special counsel, the ACLU is taking other steps to ensure that top military leaders are held accountable. Last month, the ACLU and Human Rights First filed a lawsuit charging Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld with direct responsibility for the torture and abuse of detainees in U.S. military custody. The ACLU has also filed three similar complaints against Colonel Thomas Pappas, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski and Lt. General Ricardo Sanchez on behalf of the torture victims who were detained in Iraq.

The source for these charges came from official government reports that have documented many horrific abuses inflicted on detainees in U.S. custody. They have shown that the abuse was ongoing and was not limited to the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. The ACLU obtained many of these documents through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit that has to date yielded more than 30,000 pages of damning evidence. Next month, the ACLU will return to court to press for the release of additional documents as well as photos and videos that the government has resisted turning over.

As we continue to receive more information, the government cannot ignore the systematic nature of the torture that implicates the military chain of command to the very top. We must hold accountable those who are putting our own soldiers at risk of torture and who have tarred America’s image in the world community.

The ACLU’s letter to Attorney General Gonzales calling for a special counsel is online at /node/21351

More than 30,000 pages of government documents on torture and abuse obtained by the ACLU are online at www­

Background on the lawsuit against Rumsfeld and others is online at www­

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