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Revealed: U.S. Interrogators May Have Killed Dozens of Detainees

In all, 98 detainees have died while in U.S. hands, with 34 identified as homicides, at least eight of which were tortured to death.
 
 
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United States interrogators killed nearly four dozen detainees during or after their interrogations, according a report published by a human rights researcher based on a Human Rights First report and followup investigations.

In all, 98 detainees have died while in U.S. hands. Thirty-four homicides have been identified, with at least eight detainees -- and as many as 12 -- having been tortured to death, according to a 2006 Human Rights First report that underwrites the researcher’s posting. The causes of 48 more deaths remain uncertain.

The researcher, John Sifton, worked for five years for Human Rights Watch. In a posting Tuesday, he documents myriad cases of detainees who died at the hands of their U.S. interrogators. Some of the instances he cites are graphic.

Most of those taken captive were killed in Afghanistan and Iraq. They include at least one Afghani soldier, Jamal Naseer, who was mistakenly arrested in 2004. “Those arrested with Naseer later said that during interrogations U.S. personnel punched and kicked them, hung them upside down, and hit them with sticks or cables,” Sifton writes. “Some said they were doused with cold water and forced to lie in the snow. Nasser collapsed about two weeks after the arrest, complaining of stomach pain, probably an internal hemorrhage.”

Another Afghan killing occurred in 2002. Mohammad Sayari was killed by four U.S. servicemembers after being detained for allegedly “following their movements.” A Pentagon document obtained by the American Civil Liberties Union in 2005 said that the Defense Department found a captain and three sergeants had “murdered” Sayari, but the section dealing with the department’s probe was redacted.

Perhaps the most macabre case occurred in Iraq, which was documented in a Human Rights First report in 2006.

“Nagem Sadoon Hatab… a 52-year-old Iraqi, was killed while in U.S. custody at a holding camp close to Nasiriyah,” the group wrote. “Although a U.S. Army medical examiner found that Hatab had died of strangulation, the evidence that would have been required to secure accountability for his death -- Hatab’s body -- was rendered unusable in court. Hatab’s internal organs were left exposed on an airport tarmac for hours; in the blistering Baghdad heat, the organs were destroyed; the throat bone that would have supported the Army medical examiner’s findings of strangulation was never found.”

In another graphic instance, a former Iraqi general was beaten by U.S. forces and suffocated to death. The military officer charged in the death was given just 60 days house arrest.

“Abed Hamed Mowhoush [was] a former Iraqi general beaten over days by U.S. Army, CIA and other non-military forces, stuffed into a sleeping bag, wrapped with electrical cord, and suffocated to death,” Human Rights First writes. “In the recently concluded trial of a low-level military officer charged in Mowhoush’s death, the officer received a written reprimand, a fine, and 60 days with his movements limited to his work, home, and church.”

Another Iraqi man was killed in a U.S. detention facility on Mosul in 2003.

“U.S. military personnel who examined Kenami when he first arrived at the facility determined that he had no preexisting medical conditions,” the rights group writes. “Once in custody, as a disciplinary measure for talking, Kenami was forced to perform extreme amounts of exercise -- a technique used across Afghanistan and Iraq. Then his hands were bound behind his back with plastic handcuffs, he was hooded, and forced to lie in an overcrowded cell. Kenami was found dead the morning after his arrest, still bound and hooded. No autopsy was conducted; no official cause of death was determined. After the Abu Ghraib scandal, a review of Kenami’s death was launched, and Army reviewers criticized the initial criminal investigation for failing to conduct an autopsy; interview interrogators, medics, or detainees present at the scene of the death; and collect physical evidence. To date, however, the Army has taken no known action in the case.”