Abu Ghraib prison

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Abu Ghraib prison (Abu Ghurayb), located 20 miles (32 Kilometers) from Baghdad, Iraq, was a notorious prison under Saddam Hussein's regime, and the site of several high-profile prisoner abuse cases during the U.S. occupation which received much worldwide attention.

Abu Ghraib under Saddam Hussein

During Saddam Hussein’s rule in Iraq, countless reports of torture and execution at Abu Ghraib emerged. The US State Department records incidents at Abu Ghraib involving the amputation of prisoners’ limbs for the crime of conducting business in United States currency in 1994[1] and the 2001 execution of 28 political prisoners in a wave of “prison cleansing.” [2] Additionally, in a report detailing conditions in Iraq under Hussein, the White House records the execution of over 4,000 prisoners at Abu Ghraib in 1984 alone.[3]

Abu Ghraib under Coalition Control

According to Capt. Mark Doggett of the Australian army out of 7,800 prisoners being held in 2004 approximately 120 foreign jihadists were being held who entered to attack Iraqi civilians and coalition allies.

"We have people in custody who have been involved in killing Americans and others from the coalition forces. I really cannot think of a worse crime than that: murder." Doggett added, "The most common things people are being detained for include attacking coalition forces or the Iraqi people, likewise for financing attacks on forces or the Iraqi people," or being "involved in the planning of attacks." Likewise "the manufacture of improvised explosive devices. That could mean everything from procuring the necessary materials for explosive devices, through to actually manufacturing the devices, to planting them." [4]

In 2004 Arundhati Roy told a meeting of the American Sociological Association in Berkeley broadcast on Democracy Now,

"Each prisoner tortured in Abu Ghraib was our comrade.[5]

Capt. Doggett reported that only one journalist inquired about the nature of the actions that led to internment for prisoners being held.

Abuse cases

During the occupation by the U.S.-led coalition, accounts of abuse of prisoners by U. S. forces emerged and led to courts martial of several individuals, including Lynndie England. Several of the accused soldiers claimed they were acting under orders.

Responding to the public release of the Abu Ghraib abuse photographs, then Secretary of Defense, Donald H. Rumsfeld, explained,

"I feel terrible about what happened to these Iraqi detainees. They are human beings. They were in U.S. custody. Our country had an obligation to treat them right. We didn’t do that. That was wrong. To those Iraqis who were mistreated by members of U.S. armed forces, I offer my deepest apology. It was un-American. And it was inconsistent with the values of our nation."[6]

Army Reserve Brigadier General, Janis Karpinski, who assumed leadership of the prison on June 30, 2003, received a reprimand and was demoted to Colonel on charges of dereliction of duty.[7]

Nine members of the armed forces received courts martial for crimes depicted in the photographs. Of the more prominent perpetrators, Army Specialist Charles Graner received a 10-year prison sentence for his participation in abuse and sexual humiliation of prisoners. At his trial he repeatedly insisted that he was simply following commands issued by his superior officers. Private First Class, Lynndie England, received three years in prison and a dishonorable discharge. Sabrina Harmon, photographed beside a deceased prisoner, received a sentence of six months.

On May 24, 2004 President George W. Bush summarized the affair, “Under the dictator, prisons like Abu Ghraib were symbols of death and torture. That same prison became a symbol of disgraceful conduct by a few American troops who dishonored our country and disregarded our values...”[8]

On May 11, 2009, President Barack Obama is trying to censor the publication of more alleged pictures.[9]


  1. “Iraqis Dismembered by Saddam Received Artificial Limbs in U.S.” US State Department, 28 May 2004, http://usinfo.state.gov/xarchives/display.html?p=washfile-english&y=2004&m=May&x=20040528165245cpataruK3.368777e-02
  2. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor “Country Reports on Human Rights Practices - Iraq 2001,” US State Department, March 4, 2002. http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2001/nea/8257.html
  3. “Life Under Saddam,” https://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/04/20030404-1.html
  4. *Abu Ghraib inmates aren't 'helpless' - they're lethal, Deroy Murdock, The Daily Oakland Press, May 24, 2004.
  5. Transcript of Arundhati Roy Speaking to American Sociological Association, from Democracy Now
  6. Testimony as Prepared by Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld, The Senate and House Armed Services Committees, Friday, May 07, 2004. http://www.defenselink.mil/speeches/speech.aspx?speechid=118
  7. https://www.washingtontimes.com/functions/print.php?StoryID=20040526-120928-8194r
  8. Presidential Remarks at United States War College, May 24, 2004. https://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2004/05/20040524-1 0.html
  9. [1]

External links

Warning: These photographs are quite graphic!
  • [2] Salon.com Abu Ghraib Photo Archives