No moral ground

THE widespread abuse of Iraqi prisoners in US custody puts any civilised society to shame. Abu Ghraib, the detention centre near Baghdad, which was notorious for its brutality and torture during the Saddam Hussein’s regime, continued the tyrant’s legacy in the following years even after his fall. The world came to know about the sordid and shocking tales of inmates’ treatment, read torture, at the hands of American soldiers after their photographs appeared in global media.

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Published: Wed 6 Sep 2006, 9:18 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:28 PM

In a PR exercise to deflect an enraged public opinion at home and abroad, the US army handed over the infamous prison to the Iraqi Justice Ministry on Saturday. But by a quirk of coincidence, on the same day, a US army officer, in a report, had recommended death penalty for four American troops, if convicted, of killing three Iraqi detainees.

Though the four had admitted to killing the three prisoners in Tikrit in May, they contend they acted in self-defence. As an inquiry into the suspicious deaths is going on, the episode reminds us of ‘encounter deaths’ in the Third World to eliminate unwanted people in fake killings and raises many questions about deaths in American detention.

In fact, there may be many untold stories that are yet to come to light like the one in Tikrit, which is another dark chapter in the conduct of American troops in Iraq. Sadly, despite an international outcry over the inhuman and dehumanising treatment of Iraqi prisoners by American troops, very few have been tried, let alone convicted. Only 11 low-ranking army men have been found guilty in Abu Ghraib abuse cases. The US military is still investigating deaths of 24 unarmed civilians in Haditha last year.

American troops are still holding more than 13,000 prisoners in custody in Iraq, many of them languishing in jails without formal charges or access to Iraqi courts. For a country that does not hesitate to wage a war for democracy and civil liberties anywhere in the world, its military conduct in Iraq is a damning indictment of Washington’s self-assumed authority to lecture the world on civilised behaviour.

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