Friday, March 25, 2005

Army Says 27 Detainees Killed From 2002 to 2004

The New York Times
March 25, 2005

Army Says 27 Detainees Killed From 2002 to 2004

Filed at 3:50 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Twenty-seven detainees were killed in U.S. custody in Iraq and Afghanistan in suspected or confirmed homicide cases between August 2002 and November 2004, the Army said Friday in its first comprehensive accounting.

The Army Criminal Investigation Command said that in the 16 cases it has completed thus far, it found sufficient evidence to support a range of charges against 21 soldiers, including murder, negligent homicide and assault. It did not specify how many of the 21 had been charged.

Five of the 16 closed cases were referred to other agencies, including the case of an Iraqi who died at the Abu Ghraib prison outside of Baghdad on Nov. 4, 2003. The cause of death was determined to be ``blunt force trauma.'' No Army personnel were found to be involved; the Navy took the case and has court-martial charges against several Navy SEAL commandos and one sailor.

The CIA and Justice Department also are investigating that death.

There are 24 cases encompassing the 27 deaths. All but two of the 24 cases involved a single Iraqi or Afghan death. One case involved two deaths and another involved three.

Of the eight Army criminal investigations that remain open, pending further leads and action, five of the cases involved incidents that occurred during raids or firefights or in other circumstances outside of a U.S.-operated detention facility.

Chris Grey, spokesman for the Criminal Investigation Command, said detailed information about the eight open cases is not being released ``to protect the integrity of the investigations.''

In two of the open cases, however, legal actions have begun against accused soldiers. One involves the death of an Iraqi major general in November 2003. Four soldiers from the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, based at Fort Carson, Colo., have been charged with murder and dereliction of duty.

Another of the open cases involves three separate killings in the Sadr City sector of Baghdad in August 2004, all involving soldiers from the 1st Cavalry Division who allegedly shot the Iraqis during search operations. Two soldiers in these cases have pleaded guilty at courts-martial and charges against two other soldiers are pending courts-martial, the Army said.

In one of the Sadr City cases, two 1st Cavalry soldiers have been convicted of murder.

One is Staff Sgt. Johnny M. Horne, of Winston-Salem, N.C., who pleaded guilty Dec. 10, 2004 to killing a critically wounded 16-year-old Iraqi on Aug. 18, 2004. Horne described it as a mercy killing. He was sentenced to three years in prison, a reduction in rank to private, total forfeiture of wages and a dishonorable discharge.

The other soldier convicted in the same killing was Staff Sgt. Cardenas J. Alban of Inglewood, Calif. He was convicted Jan. 14 and sentenced to one year in prison, a bad-conduct discharge from the Army and reduction in rank to private.

Another 1st Cavalry soldier faces charges of murder and obstruction of justice in the deaths of two other Iraqis who were killed while being detained during the same August 2004 operation in Sadr City. Still another soldier faces charges of murder and making a false statement in connection with one of those two deaths. The involvement of other soldiers is still under investigation.

Grey said 17 of the 24 total homicide cases happened in Iraq; the other seven were in Afghanistan.

``We take each and every death very seriously and are committed and sworn to investigating each case with the utmost professionalism and thoroughness,'' Grey said. He added that some cases are complicated by the fact that allegations have arisen long after the abuse occurred.

Once the Criminal Investigation Command finishes an investigation, it gives its findings to the relevant military command to determine whether charges will be filed. Sometimes an accused soldiers' commander will decide not to press criminal charges that investigators bring to him.

One such case involved the death of a detainee, a former Iraqi Army lieutenant colonel, on Jan. 9, 2004.

An autopsy indicated the cause of death was blunt force injuries and asphyxia, and it was ruled a homicide. Investigators determined there was sufficient evidence against two soldiers for the offense of negligent homicide and nine other soldiers for various offenses ranging from assault to making false official statements. The soldiers' commander, however, decided the Iraqi died as a result of the lawful use of force in response to misconduct by the Iraqi.

That case is closed.