Pentagon to release new batch of Iraq torture photos

Pentagon to release new batch of Iraq torture photos
A leading US rights group says the Pentagon has promised to release nearly 200 photographs depicting use of torture against prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan.
3 min read
28 January, 2016
US soldiers tortured Iraqi prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison [Wikicommons]

The Pentagon has pledged to release part of a trove of photographs related to the abuse of prisoners at US detention centres in Iraq and Afghanistan, it has emerged.

The move would be the latest step in a legal saga between the US military and the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a freedom of information lawsuit in 2004 seeking the release of some 2,000 photographs documenting the abuse of detainees.

In a statement, the ACLU said on Wednesday that the Pentagon had promised to post 198 of these images online by Friday.

Though the administration of President Barack Obama had said it would release the photos back in 2009, Congress passed an exemption to the Freedom of Information Act allowing for images to be withheld if the defence secretary deemed them to threaten national security.

The US government officially opposes publishing the images because it fears they could provoke a violent backlash and place US forces and personnel overseas at heightened risk of attack.

In March 2015, a US judge ordered the government to release the photos, but the Pentagon appealed against that ruling.

      The abuse of prisoners has hurt
Washington's global standing [Getty]

However, in November last year, Pentagon chief Ashton Carter declined to re-certify 198 images as posing a risk to national security. Those are the pictures due to be released this week.

The ACLU said it would continue to seek the release of the remaining 1,800 or so images.

"We're still pressing our case for the remaining secret photos," the group said.

US soldiers were implicated in the torture of Iraqi prisoners at Baghdad's Abu Ghraib prison when the US military ran it in 2004, a scandal that first broke when photos showing soldiers abusing detainees were published in US media.

Read more: Inside Abu Ghraib - Meeting Ali Shallal al-Qaisi, the man in the mask

The abuses include sexual humiliation, physical and sexual abuse, torture, rape, sodomy, and murder, according to human rights groups.

The violations captured on film received widespread condemnation around the globe.

Last year, the man in the most famous image from the abuse scandal gave a rare interview to The New Arab, describing his harrowing ordeal during his detention.

Between 2004 and 2006, 11 soldiers - including Lynndie England, who was seen smiling beside naked prisoners being subjected to sexual abuse - were convicted in court martials.

The photos from Afghanistan are related to the notorious Bagram prison, where guards tortured detainees so badly that two died from abuse in 2002, one of them a taxi driver who even interrogators later admitted was probably just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Agencies contributed to this report