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2 Died After '02 Beatings by U.S. Soldiers

By Josh White
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 12, 2005; Page A14

Two detainees held at the U.S. detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, died within a week of each other in December 2002 after military police guards and military intelligence interrogators brutally beat them and left them chained to the ceiling in standing positions, according to Army documents obtained by a human rights group.

The documents, which detail the investigations into the deaths of two Afghan detainees named Mullah Habibullah and Dilawar, describe the repeated harsh treatment of the two prisoners and identify more than a dozen soldiers believed to be responsible for the abuse. The documents also blame military interrogators for using harsh and unapproved tactics against detainees, including kicks to the groin and legs, shoving or slamming detainees into walls and tables, forcing detainees to maintain painful contorted body positions during interviews, and forcing water in their mouths until they could not breathe.

Army regulations prohibit using force during interrogations.

One of the investigative documents obtained by Human Rights Watch and released yesterday also found that military intelligence interrogators inappropriately directed military police personnel "to execute the course of sleep deprivation (through standing restraint)."

Most notable about the documents is that they detail severe physical abuse that allegedly occurred at the hands of U.S. soldiers about a year before abuse was documented at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Parts of the same unit responsible for gathering intelligence at Bagram at the time, the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, were sent to Abu Ghraib to set up the intelligence-gathering effort there, and Army investigators believe that some of the same tactics migrated with them.

The MPs at Abu Ghraib, seven of whom were charged with maltreating detainees, said they were being instructed by MI interrogators to keep detainees awake as part of ordered sleep-deprivation programs preceding interrogations.

The documents detail abuse at Bagram that was far more severe than that seen at Abu Ghraib, however. Soldiers are accused of placing Dilawar in a "standing restraint" position as punishment, something that the documents reveal was part of the Bagram Control Point's standard operating procedure. They are accused of using their knees to deliver dozens of blows to Dilawar's lower body, what the soldiers apparently called "compliance blows" to get him to cooperate. An autopsy showed that Dilawar's legs were so damaged that amputation would have been necessary.

Habibullah suffered almost identical leg injuries and died from a blood clot near the heart.

Pentagon investigations have concluded that there was no systemic abuse in the U.S. military but that there was confusion about interrogation policy and procedures. The most recent report, by Navy Vice Adm. Albert T. Church III, concluded that abuse was scattered and unrelated.

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