Australia’s Howard defends U.S. handling of alleged abuse case
(CNN) — The United States has criticized an Australian television network’s release of grisly images that show apparent detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.
The Australian television network SBS program “Dateline” broadcast the pictures and videos Wednesday night.
They included pictures of prisoners apparently forced to engage in sex acts and one video where five men wearing hoods masturbate for the camera, presumably under orders from their guards.
The photos and videos reportedly date from 2003 — the same time that previously released photographs of prisoner abuse were taken.
Publication of the original set of pictures in 2004 sparked widespread international condemnation of the United States and led to the conviction of nine American soldiers. (Gallery: Abu Ghraib pictures)
American officials have said the pictures should not have been released, with Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman telling The Associated Press their airing “could only further inflame and possibly incite unnecessary violence in the world.”
Australian Prime Minister John Howard, a staunch ally of the U.S., was quick to defend Washington on Thursday, saying the Bush administration had already dealt with abuse at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison.
“If further abuse has occurred then I unreservedly condemn it,” he said.
The newly released photographs appear to show more abuse, including cases of torture and sexual humiliation. They do not appear to show any new perpetrators.
Olivia Rousset, the SBS reporter on the story, said she came across the photographs while researching a story on guards at Abu Ghraib.
American Civil Liberties Union lawyer Amrit Singh said on “Dateline” she hoped the images would bring “further pressure to hold high-ranking officials accountable for what we now know to have been systemic and widespread abuse occurring throughout Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay.” (Watch why the hoods, nudity and poses suggest abuse — 2:02)
When the ACLU son access to a new set of pictures in September via a Freedom of Information Act request, the U.S. government appealed the decision, tying up their release.
Mike Carey, executive producer of “Dateline,” said on the SBS network’s Web site that his program “obtained a file of hundreds of pictures, some that have been seen before and others that show new abuses.”
The program did not show all of the pictures. It deemed some of them too graphic for air, Carey said.
Among the images broadcast were pictures of naked men who appeared to have suffered physical trauma, one of whom the report said had 11 non-lethal bullet wounds in his buttocks.
Other pictures show corpses, one of which the program said a U.S. Army report identified as one of three men killed during a riot over living conditions at the prison.
According to the TV report, two Abu Ghraib soldiers said that guards were ordered to use lethal rounds on prisoners after they ran out of rubber bullets trying to halt the riot.
One image depicts two women described by a guard to “Dateline” as prostitutes held at the prison for two days. In one picture, the breasts of one of the women are exposed.
Another grisly image shows a corpse that appears to have had a section torn from its head, while another one features a man whose arms are covered in purple bruises.
Also broadcast was video that appears to show a prisoner — handcuffed to a metal door — repeatedly slamming his head full force against the door. Though the guards appear to have videotaped the incident from several vantage points, no one is seen intervening to stop the prisoner.
The network said the man allegedly had mental problems and frequently covered himself in feces, but he was not given any psychiatric care.
The TV program obscured most of the prisoners’ faces so they could not be identified.
The release of the photographs follows the release of a 2004 videotape apparently showing British soldiers beating Iraqis. Three people have been arrested in that case, which was condemned by Prime Minister Tony Blair. (Full story)
When the original set of Abu Ghraib photographs was released nearly two years ago, members of Congress said they had received a private viewing of other, unreleased pictures.
Seven low-ranking guards and two military intelligence soldiers — described by U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld as “bad apples” — have been disciplined for offenses documented in the original pictures.
Last May, U.S. President Bush demoted Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib during the prison abuse scandal, to colonel. She had been formally relieved of command of the 800th military police brigade a month earlier.
Another officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, was reprimanded and fined.
The longest prison sentence — 10 years — was given to Army Cpl. Charles Graner, seen in many of the pictures.
Staff Sgt. Ivan “Chip” Frederick, a U.S. Army reservist from Virginia, received an eight-year sentence.
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