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Rights Group: Abu Ghraib Abuses 'Tip of Iceberg'

Reuters | April 27, 2005
By Ian Simpson

BAGHDAD - A rights watchdog said on Wednesday the abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison were just the "tip of the iceberg" of U.S. mistreatment of Muslim prisoners.

The abuses at Abu Ghraib are part of a larger pattern of U.S. rights violations of detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay and elsewhere, New York-based Human Rights Watch said.

Its summary of accusations of abuses came on the eve of the first anniversary of publication of photos showing humiliation and mistreatment of prisoners at the Iraqi jail.

"Abu Ghraib was only the tip of the iceberg," Reed Brody, special counsel for Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

"It's now clear that abuse of detainees has happened all over -- from Afghanistan to Guantanamo Bay to a lot of third-country dungeons where the United States has sent prisoners. And probably quite a few other places we don't even know about."

The group said it was concerned the United States had not stopped the use of what it called illegal coercive interrogation.

It said nine detainees were known to have died in U.S. custody in Afghanistan. At least 11 al Qaeda suspects have also "disappeared" in U.S. custody, with no evidence of where they are being held.

It said there was growing evidence that prisoners being held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, on suspicion of links to radical Islamic groups "have suffered torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading punishment."

Abuses there include chained detainees being forced to sit in their own excrement, Human Rights Watch said.

The CIA has also transferred up to 150 prisoners to countries in the Middle East known to practice torture routinely, the group added.

The U.S. military says its treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay is humane and justified and says it has changed some of its policies in Iraq since the abuses at Abu Ghraib, which included sexual humiliation of detainees.

The photographs depicting U.S. forces mistreating Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib, once a notorious prison under Saddam Hussein, triggered international criticism of U.S policies.

The former U.S. commander in Iraq, Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, was cleared of wrongdoing by an army panel last week. The head of the military police unit at Abu Ghraib received a letter of reprimand and was relieved of her command.

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