BAGHDAD - U.S. forces beat three Iraqis working for Reuters and subjected them to sexual and religious taunts and humiliation during their detention last January in a military camp near Falluja, the three said Tuesday.
The three first told Reuters of the ordeal after their
release but only decided to make it public when the U.S.
military said there was no evidence they had been abused, and
following the exposure of similar mistreatment of detainees at
Abu Ghraib prison near Baghdad.
An Iraqi journalist working for U.S. network NBC, who was
arrested with the Reuters staff, also said he had been beaten
and mistreated, NBC said Tuesday.
Two of the three Reuters staff said they had been forced to
insert a finger into their anus and then lick it, and were
forced to put shoes in their mouths, particularly humiliating
in Arab culture.
All three said they were forced to make demeaning gestures
as soldiers laughed, taunted them and took photographs. They
said they did not want to give details publicly earlier because
of the degrading nature of the abuse.
The soldiers told them they would be taken to the U.S.
detention center at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba, deprived them of
sleep, placed bags over their heads, kicked and hit them and
forced them to remain in stress positions for long periods.
The U.S. military, in a report issued before the Abu Ghraib
abuse became public, said there was no evidence the Reuters
staff had been tortured or abused.
Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of ground forces in
Iraq, said in a letter received by Reuters Monday but dated
March 5 that he was confident the investigation had been
"thorough and objective" and its findings were sound.
The Pentagon has yet to respond to a request by Reuters
Global Managing Editor David Schlesinger to review the
military's findings about the incident in light of the scandal
over the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.
Asked for comment Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman
said only: "There are a number of lines of inquiry under way
with respect to prison operations in Iraq. If during the course
of any inquiry, the commander believes it is appropriate to
review a specific aspect of detention, he has the authority to
The abuse happened at Forward Operating Base Volturno, near
Falluja, the Reuters staff said. They were detained on January
2 while covering the aftermath of the shooting down of a U.S.
helicopter near Falluja and held for three days, first at
Volturno and then at Forward Operating Base St Mere.
The three -- Baghdad-based cameraman Salem Ureibi,
Falluja-based freelance television journalist Ahmad Mohammad
Hussein al-Badrani and driver Sattar Jabar al-Badrani -- were
released without charge on Jan. 5.
"When I saw the Abu Ghraib photographs, I wept," Ureibi
said Tuesday. "I saw they had suffered like we had."
Ureibi, who understands English better than the other two
detainees, said soldiers told him they wanted to have sex with
him, and he was afraid he would be raped.
NBC, whose stringer Ali Muhammed Hussein Ali al-Badrani was
detained along with the Reuters staff, said he reported that a
hood was placed over his head for hours, and that he was forced
to perform physically debilitating exercises, prevented from
sleeping and struck and kicked several times.
"Despite repeated requests, we have yet to receive the
results of the army investigation," NBC News Vice President
Bill Wheatley said.
Schlesinger sent a letter to Sanchez on January 9 demanding
an investigation into the treatment of the three Iraqis.
The U.S. army said it was investigating and requested
further information. Reuters provided transcripts of initial
interviews with the three following their release, and offered
to make them available for interview by investigators.
A summary of the investigation by the 82nd Airborne
Division, dated January 28 and provided to Reuters, said "no
specific incidents of abuse were found." It said soldiers
responsible for the detainees were interviewed under oath and
"none admit or report knowledge of physical abuse or torture."
"The detainees were purposefully and carefully put under
stress, to include sleep deprivation, in order to facilitate
interrogation; they were not tortured," it said. The version
received Monday used the phrase "sleep management" instead.
The U.S. military never interviewed the three for its
On February 3 Schlesinger wrote to Lawrence Di Rita,
special assistant to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying
the investigation was "woefully inadequate" and should be
"The military's conclusion of its investigation without
even interviewing the alleged victims, along with other
inaccuracies and inconsistencies in the report, speaks volumes
about the seriousness with which the U.S. government is taking
this issue," he wrote.
The U.S. military faced international outrage this month
after photographs surfaced showing U.S. soldiers humiliating
and abusing Iraqi detainees at Abu Ghraib prison west of
An investigation by Major General Antonio Taguba found that
"numerous incidents of sadistic, blatant, and wanton criminal
abuses were inflicted on several detainees" in Abu Ghraib.
Seven U.S. soldiers have been charged over the Abu Ghraib
abuse and the first court martial is set for Wednesday.
U.S. officials say the abuse was carried out by a small
number of soldiers and that all allegations of abuse are
promptly and thoroughly investigated.
Copyright © 2004 Reuters Limited.