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Report: Detainee abuse claims not investigated in full

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An Iraqi detainee sits in his cell at Abu Ghraib in October 2005.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- More than two years after the Abu Ghraib scandal, a report by human rights activists accuses U.S. authorities of failing to adequately investigate claims of detainee abuse at U.S. jails in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Researchers tracked more than 330 accusations of detainee abuse and torture since 2001, which implicated more than 600 U.S. military and civilian personnel and involved more than 460 detainees.

Only about half of the cases appear to have been adequately investigated, the report said.

"It has become clear that the problem of torture and other abuse by U.S. personnel abroad was far more pervasive than the Abu Ghraib photos revealed -- extending to numerous U.S. detention facilities in Afghanistan, Iraq, and at Guantanamo Bay, and including hundreds of incidents of abuse," said the report, titled "By The Numbers," from the Detainee Abuse and Accountability Project.

"An analysis of alleged abuse cases shows that promises of transparency, investigation, and appropriate punishment for those responsible remain unfulfilled," said the report -- which was carried out by New York University's Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, Human Rights Watch and Human Rights First.

"Authorities have failed to investigate many allegations, or have investigated them inadequately," the report said. "And numerous personnel implicated in abuse cases have not been prosecuted or punished."

In each case, the Iraqi government condemned the abuse and asked that steps be taken to keep it from reoccurring, the report said. "The project found that many abuses were never investigated, and investigations that did occur often closed prematurely, or stalled without resolution."

The report also contends that when military investigators identified possible suspects, commanders often chose to use "weak, nonjudicial disciplinary measures as punishment, instead of pursuing criminal courts-martial."

Most cases of courts-martial resulted in prison sentences of under a year, or punishments that did not involve jail time, such as discharges or reductions in rank, according to the report.

"We've seen a series of half-hearted investigations and slaps on the wrist," said Tom Malinowski, Washington advocacy director for Human Rights Watch. "The government seems more interested in managing the detainee abuse scandal than in addressing the underlying problems that caused it."

There also has been a lack of accountability up the chain of military command, the report says. Researchers found no cases in which an officer was held accountable for the abuses of subordinates under the military doctrine of command responsibility.

About 20 civilians, including CIA agents, have been referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution, but the department has "shown minimal initiative in moving forward in abuse cases. The Department of Justice has not indicted any CIA agents for abusing detainees; it has indicted only one civilian contractor," the report said.

Seven low-ranking guards and two military intelligence soldiers -- described by U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld as "bad apples" -- were disciplined after the 2003 Abu Ghraib scandal. The photos -- which were leaked to the news media -- showed cases of torture and sexual humiliation, causing global condemnation.

In May 2005, President Bush demoted Army Reserve Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski, who was in charge of Abu Ghraib during the scandal, to colonel. A month earlier, Karpinski had been formally relieved of command of the 800th military police brigade.

Another officer, Col. Thomas Pappas, was reprimanded and fined.

The longest prison sentence -- 10 years -- was given to Army Cpl. Charles Graner, who is seen in many of the Abu Ghraib photos with his then-girlfriend, Pfc. Lynndie England, who was sentenced to three years in prison.

Staff Sgt. Ivan "Chip" Frederick, a U.S. Army reservist from Virginia, received an eight-year sentence.

The report recommended that:

  • Congress appoint an independent commission to review U.S. detention and interrogation policies and operations.
  • The secretary of defense and attorney general order prompt investigations of alleged detainee abuse.
  • The secretary of defense appoint a high-level, centralized prosecuting authority across all branches of the military to probe alleged abuse cases.
  • Congress require the military to certify that officer promotion candidates that require Senate confirmation are not implicated in any allegations of detainee abuse.
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