Abu Ghraib photos depict rape, sexual assault: ex-US general

[JURIST] The photographs of detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison [JURIST news archive] that US President Barack Obama [official website] does not want to release include depictions of rape and sexual assault, according to former US Major General Antonio Taguba on Wednesday. In an interview [text] with the Daily Telegraph, Taguba maintained support for Obama's decision [JURIST report] not to release the photos, maintaining that doing so would endanger US troops. In April, the Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] agreed to release [JURIST report] at least 44 photographs of alleged detainee abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan pursuant to a court order [order, PDF]. After lobbying from senior military officials and meeting with White house lawyers, Obama reversed the decision to release the photos based on concerns for the safety of US troops. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy group] criticized [press release] Obama's decision, claiming that it contradicted the administration's desire to restore transparency and moral standing. Taguba addressed the ramifications of releasing the photographs, saying:

I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan. The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.
Taguba investigated the alleged abuse in 2004 and reported his findings [text, PDF], which include sworn statements by 13 detainees whom he called "credible based on the clarity of their statements and supporting evidence." Taguba's 2004 report, while lacking information regarding photographs of rape, alleges detainee abuse that includes sodomizing with objects, beatings, humiliation, taking sexually explicit photographs, and threats of rape.

After Obama's recent decision to not release the photographs, the DOJ sent a letter [text, PDF] to district Judge Alvin Hellerstein saying that "the Government has decided to pursue further options regarding that decision, including, but not limited to the option of seeking certiorari." Last month, the DOJ sent a letter [text, PDF] to Hellerstein saying that they would comply with his 2005 order to release 21 photos from Abu Ghraib. Hellerstein's order resulted from a Freedom of Information Act [text] challenge [ACLU materials] brought by the ACLU against the Department of Defense (DOD) [official website]. The DOD appealed the decision to the US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit [official website] and lost [JURIST report].

2:00 PM ET: The Pentagon has denied [Reuters report] that any of the photographs in question depict sexual abuse.

 

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