Military: No Gitmo Guard Abuse Evident
Wednesday, February 7, 2007; 10:04 PM
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- An Army officer who investigated possible abuse at Guantanamo Bay after some guards purportedly bragged about beating detainees found no evidence they mistreated the prisoners _ although he did not interview any of the alleged victims, the U.S. military said Wednesday.
Col. Richard Bassett, the chief investigator, recommended no disciplinary action against the Navy guards named by Marine Sgt. Heather Cerveny, who had said that during a conversation in September they described beating detainees as common practice.
In an affidavit filed to the Pentagon's inspector general, Cerveny _ a member of a detainee's legal defense team _ said a group of more than five men who identified themselves as guards had recounted hitting prisoners. The conversation allegedly took place at a bar inside the base.
"The evidence did not support any of the allegations of mistreatment or harassment," the Miami-based Southern Command, which oversees Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in southeastern Cuba, said in a statement.
Investigators conducted 20 interviews with "suspects and witnesses," the Southern Command said. Bassett did not interview any detainees, said Jose Ruiz, a Miami-based command spokesman.
"He talked to all the parties he felt he needed to get information about the allegations that were made," Ruiz said by telephone from Miami.
Bassett's findings were approved by Adm. James Stavridis, the head of the Southern Command.
The investigation began on Oct. 13 and was expanded ten days later to include a similar allegation from a civilian employee who recounted a conversation between a female guard and a male interrogator, according to the statement. Following Bassett's recommendations, Stavridis said a "letter of counseling" should be sent to the female guard who allegedly initiated a "fictitious account" of detainee abuse.
Bassett also accused Cerveny of filing a false statement during a brief meeting with her at the Marine base at Camp Pendleton, Calif., her boss, Marine Lt. Col. Colby Vokey, said last week.
Vokey, who had filed the complaint about possible detainee abuse to the inspector general's office that included Cerveny's affidavit, could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday.