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Torture, Rendition, and other Abuses against Captives in US Custody

Camp Bucca (Iraq)

Project: Prisoner Abuse in Iraq, Afghanistan and Elsewhere
Open-Content project managed by Derek, KJF, mtuck

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The US establishes a loose network of prisons and detention centers in Iraq where Iraqi prisoners of war are held and interrogated. Iraqis detained by Coalition Forces are usually first brought to facilities at US military compounds where they are subjected to initial and secondary interrogations, ranging from a period of one week for initial interrogations up to one month for secondary interrogations. During this period, the detainees are not permitted to contact relatives or seek legal counsel. The prisoners are then sent to one of ten major Coalition prison facilities, at which point their names and information are supposed to be entered into the Coalition’s central database. The major facilities include:
bullet Abu Ghraib Prison (Baghdad Central Correctional Facility or BCCF), the largest.
bullet Camp Bucca, in Umm Qasr.
bullet Talil Air force Base (Whitford Camp), located south of Baghdad.
bullet Al-Rusafa (formerly the Deportations’ Prison or Tasfirat), in Baghdad.
bullet Al-Kadhimiyya, in Baghdad, for women only.
bullet Al-Karkh, in Baghdad, for juveniles only.
bullet Al-Diwaniyya Security Detainee Holding Area.
bullet the Tikrit detention facility.
bullet the Mosul detention facility.
bullet and MEK (Ashraf Camp), near al-Ramadi. (Human Rights Watch 5/7/2004)

At Camp Bucca, a large detention camp at Umm Qasr near the Kuwaiti border (officially called the Bucca Theater Internment Facility), representatives from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) witness a shooting incident resulting in the death of one prisoner and the wounding of another. (International Committee of the Red Cross 2/2004)

In a homemade video journal, an unidentified female US soldier at Camp Bucca prison in Iraq candidly speaks of how she and her colleagues have shot and killed prisoners. “If we shoot any more of the Iraqis, or attack any of them, they’re gonna supposedly come in and attack the camp…. But we’ll believe that when it actually happens, because we’ve already killed another Iraqi just last night when I was working. So I don’t know what’s going on…” She does not describe under what circumstances the shootings had taken place. In another part of the video she admits to antagonizing the captives. “I actually got in trouble the other day because I was throwing rocks at them.” (CBS News 3/12/2004)

Four soldiers from the 320th Military Police Battalion severely beat prisoners after transporting them to Camp Bucca in southern Iraq. Soldiers spread the legs of some prisoners while others kick them in the groin. One prisoner allegedly has “his face smashed in.” The incident is reported by the MPs of another unit. After the soldiers are charged, one of the soldiers being investigated writes to his relatives to explain the charges: “A few of my MPs were assaulted by the enemy prisoners, and we had to use force to regain control, all justifiable.” (Associated Press 7/27/2003; Higham, White, and Davenport 5/9/2004) The four MPs of Lt. Col. Jerry L. Phillabaum’s 320th Military Police Battalion will be given less than honorable discharges, but not prosecuted. (US News and World Report 7/9/2004)

Army Brig. Gen. Janis Karpinski—a reservist with no experience managing prisons—takes over command of the 800th Military Police Brigade, an Army reserve unit from Uniondale in New York State, from Brig. Gen. Paul Hill. She is put in charge of three large jails, eight battalions, and thirty-four hundred Army reservists. Her office is located at Baghdad Airport. (Higham, White, and Davenport 5/9/2004; Hersh 5/10/2004) She becomes the first female general officer to lead US soldiers in combat. (Smith and White 5/12/2004) Karpinski’s brigade, consisting of 3,400 soldiers divided over three battalions, is initially put in charge of Camp Bucca and three other smaller facilities. At this time, Camp Bucca holds about 3,500 prisoners. (Worden 7/4/2004)

The Pentagon announces that four US soldiers from a Pennsylvania-based Army Reserve have been charged with punching, kicking, and breaking the bones of Iraqi captives at Camp Bucca near Umm Qasr in connection with the May 12 incident (see May 12, 2003). This is the first known case where US soldiers are charged for alleged illegal treatment toward prisoners of war. (Associated Press 7/27/2003) By January 2004, the soldiers will have all been discharged after Brig. Gen. Ennis Whitehead III determines that they had kicked prisoners or encouraged others to do so. (Associated Press 11/25/2003; Associated Press 1/16/2004)

Three detainees at Camp Bucca who volunteered for a cleaning job are severely injured when they inadvertently set off a cluster bomb. All three will have their legs amputated. (International Committee of the Red Cross 2/24/2004 pdf file)

A delegation from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) interviews a 61-year-old Iraqi who has been imprisoned in Camp Bucca. The elderly man tells the ICRC that at the time of his arrest, he was “tied, hooded, and forced to sit on the hot surface of what he surmised to be the engine of a vehicle….” The ICRC verifies his account noting that the presence of “large crusted lesions” on his buttocks were consistent with his allegation. (International Committee of the Red Cross 2/24/2004 pdf file)

At Camp Bucca in Iraq, a Coalition soldier shoots a prisoner who is throwing stones. A February 2004 International Committee of the Red Cross report (see February 24, 2004) will recount: “Following unrest in a section of the camp one person deprived of his liberty, allegedly throwing stones, was fired upon by a guard in a watchtower. He suffered a gunshot wound to the upper part of the chest, the bullet passed through the chest and exited form [sic] the back…. An ICRC delegate and interpreter witnessed most of the events. At no point did the persons deprived of their liberty, and the victim shot at, appear to pose a serious threat to the life or security of the guards who could have responded to the situation with less brutal measures. The shooting showed a clear disregard for human life and security of the persons deprived of their liberty.” (International Committee of the Red Cross 2/24/2004 pdf file)

Camp Cropper is closed, following the advice of Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller (see September 9, 2003). (Higham, White, and Davenport 5/9/2004)

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) writes a letter to Gen. Janis Karpinski in relation to a recent shooting incident (see September 22, 2003) at Camp Bucca and recommends that she takes appropriate measures. The same letter also asks her to investigate another incident that took place on September 3 (see September 3, 2003) at the same camp. In that incident, three detainees doing a voluntary cleaning job were severely injured when a cluster bomb went off. (International Committee of the Red Cross 2/24/2004 pdf file)

A new interrogation policy is approved for US personnel regarding prisoners detained in Iraqi facilities such as Abu Ghraib. The policy will remain classified as late as mid-2009, but the Senate Armed Services Committee (see April 21, 2009) will release excerpts from it. The policy warns that interrogators “should consider the fact that some interrogation techniques are viewed as inhumane or otherwise inconsistent with international law before applying each technique. These techniques are labeled with a [CAUTION].” Among the techniques labeled as such are a technique involving power tools, stress positions, and the presence of military working dogs, all potential violations of the Geneva Conventions. (Levin 4/21/2009)

The Army issues a classified “Information Paper” entitled “Allegations of Detainee Abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan” that details the status of 62 investigations into prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib and other sites in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cases documented in the paper include allegations of assaults, physical assaults, mock executions, sexual assaults, threatening to kill an Iraqi child to “send a message to other Iraqis,” stripping detainees, beating them and shocking them with a blasting device, throwing rocks at handcuffed Iraqi children, choking detainees with knots of their scarves, and interrogations at gunpoint. The document will be released to the public by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in 2006 (see May 2, 2006). Of the 62 cases, 26 involve detainee deaths. Some have already gone through courts-martial proceedings. The cases involve allegations from Abu Ghraib, Camp Cropper, Camp Bucca, and other sites in Mosul, Samarra, Baghdad, and Tikrit, and the Orgun-E facility in Afghanistan. (American Civil Liberties Union 5/2/2006)


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