December 11, 2004 in Nation/World

Pentagon investigating reports of abuse at Guantanamo

Paisley Dodds Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – The Pentagon said Friday it was investigating allegations of abuse by an Australian prisoner at the U.S. detention camp in Guantanamo Bay.

Also, a U.S. senator from New Mexico said he asked Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to explain reports the government tried to suppress reports by U.S. military personnel and FBI of abuse at U.S.-run detention camps in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo.

The Pentagon, which maintains detainees are treated in accordance with the Geneva Conventions that prohibit the use of torture or abuse, said it was looking into claims by detainee David Hicks of beatings and other mistreatment at Guantanamo. Hicks’ allegations became public Thursday in an affidavit released by his attorney.

“There’s currently an ongoing investigation into allegations of abuse in the case of David Hicks based on abuse allegations,” Pentagon spokesman Maj. Michael Shavers said.

The investigation began before the allegations became public, he said.

Additional investigations into abuse and mistreatment at Guantanamo Bay, as well as other aspects of the detention mission, are also pending, Shavers said.

Several documents published this week show FBI agents sent to Guantanamo warned the government about abuse and mistreatment at the start of the detention mission in 2002, more than a year before a scandal over mistreatment of detainees at Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison. One letter, written by a senior Justice Department official and obtained by the Associated Press, suggested the Pentagon failed to act on the FBI complaints.

“We need to have a full accounting of what has happened in connection with efforts to suppress information,” Sen. Jeff Bingaman, D-N.M., told AP on Friday, a day after he sent a letter to Rumsfeld. “The main focus has been on abuse allegations, but now it seems pretty clear there were efforts to prevent people from properly reporting incidents of abuse.”

Hicks, accused of fighting with Afghanistan’s ousted Taliban regime, said he and others suffered abuse by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, where he has been held since January 2002.

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