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US/Iraq/Afghanistan: Accountability for Detainee Abuse

The US Army in January ordered the court-martial of Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Jordan, a key official allegedly implicated in detainee abuse at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. Jordan is the first military officer to be charged under the doctrine of command responsibility, whereby officers can be held responsible for the crimes of their subordinates if they knew or should have known about the crimes but failed to prevent or punish them. Human Rights Watch has long pressed for the investigation and prosecution of abuses against detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay. We released a report showing that since the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the military has failed to hold any officers accountable for detainee abuse under the doctrine of command responsibility. In the same report, we also documented the utter failure of the US Justice Department to prosecute civilians implicated in cases of detainee mistreatment. In February, in a step forward, a US federal court sentenced CIA civilian contractor David Passaro to eight-and-a-half years in prison for the 2003 beating of an Afghan detainee, who died of his injuries. To date, Passaro is the only civilian who has been held accountable for detainee abuse in Afghanistan, Iraq, or at Guantanamo Bay.

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