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Newly Released Documents Show Possible Interference By Army Commander In Investigation Into Murder Of Iraqi Detainee

The American Civil Liberties Union and New York Civil Liberties Union today released a slew of previously undisclosed government documents suggesting that Army commanders may have interfered in military investigations into the deaths of Iraqi detainees in American custody. The documents, which are files from the Army’s Criminal Investigation Command (known as the CID), were released by the Defense Department in response to a court order issued under the Freedom of Information Act.

“The files that we have obtained raise serious questions about obstruction of justice and whether government officials are acting with brazen impunity,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU Executive Director. “These kinds of crimes should not simply be brushed under the rug.”

One of the most troubling files relates to the suspected murder of a detainee held in Tikrit. On August 8, 2003, American forces arrested Obed Hethere Radad during a raid. According to the documents, on September 11, 2003 an Army specialist shot and killed Radad without any advance warning. The CID ultimately determined that there was probable cause to charge the specialist with murder.

However, the perpetrator never faced a murder charge, or any court-martial at all. The Army delayed four days before notifying CID about the incident. In the meantime, a commander convened the military equivalent of a grand jury, known as an Article 32 hearing, and charged the specialist with voluntary manslaughter. Unsurprisingly, given the lack of time to develop evidence, the proceeding recommended against court-martial. The specialist was demoted to the rank of private and discharged from the service before the CID’s investigation even began.

Another set of documents obtained by the ACLU and NYCLU details the military inquiry into the mysterious death of Abdureda Lafta Abdul Kareem, a 44-year-old man who “appeared to be in good health” when he was taken into custody. Abdul Kareem was detained on December 5, 2003, and taken to a facility near Mosul where he was placed in the “general population holding area.” At Mosul, the documents reveal, United States forces continuously hooded detainees with sandbags, and barred them from speaking.

Four days after entering the Mosul detention facility, Abdul Kareem was found dead in his cell. The medic who examined him found multiple wounds, a laceration on his head surrounded by internal bleeding, bruising on his abdomen and a clear fluid in his right ear. Although the body was sent to Baghdad for autopsy, the battalion and group command canceled the procedure.

An internal review of the Abdul Kareem case initiated after the Abu Ghraib abuses became public criticized the lack of explanation for the no-autopsy order, the failure to interview any interrogators or other detainees, and the failure to collect physical evidence.

The new documents also contain extensive details about an array of other abuse investigations. These include:


  • An apparent attempt by a soldier in Baghdad to force a detainee to hold a gun to create the appearance of a justifiable homicide.
  • Two mock executions of Iraqi juveniles by Army personnel (documents obtained by the ACLU two weeks ago showed that U.S. Marines had also conducted a mock execution of juvenile detainees).
  • Allegations of a competition among Army dog handlers at Abu Ghraib prison to see who could make Iraqi detainees urinate themselves the fastest.
  • The use of death threats during interrogations.
  • Command failures in providing appropriate training to military interrogators in Baghdad detention facilities.

In a related hearing yesterday, a federal court ordered the CIA to disclose files that are currently being internally reviewed for evidence of possible wrongdoing by CIA agents in Iraq. The CIA had previously asked the court for an exemption from complying with the Freedom of Information Act request until its own investigation, which was begun on May 11, is completed. The ACLU and co-operating attorney Megan Lewis, who argued against the CIA in court yesterday, called the ruling a “significant victory.”

The lawsuit is being handled by Lawrence Lustberg and Megan Lewis of the New Jersey-based law firm Gibbons, Del Deo, Dolan, Griffinger & Vecchione, P.C. Other attorneys in the case are Art Eisenberg and Beth Haroules of the NYCLU; Jameel Jaffer, Amrit Singh and Judy Rabinovitz of the ACLU and Barbara Olshansky and Jeff Fogel of the Center for Constitutional Rights.

For a copy of the new documents released today, go to:

More information on the ACLU lawsuit can be found at:

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