U.S. judge orders release of Iraq prisoner abuse photos
U.S. federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein gave the government two months to decide how to respond to his order before the photos could be released
A United States judge has ordered the government to release a trove of photos depicting abuse of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan in the latest twist to a long-running legal battle over the images.
In a ruling issued in New York on Friday, U.S. federal Judge Alvin Hellerstein gave the government two months to decide how to respond to his order before the photos could be released.
The case has been brought by the American Civil Liberties Union which argues the release of the photos is necessary for an “ongoing national debate about governmental accountability for the abuse of prisoners.”
The U.S. government has opposed the release of the photos on the grounds they could provoke a violent backlash and place U.S. forces and personnel overseas at heightened risk of attack.
Congress passed a law in 2009 known as the Protected National Security Documents Act, which allows for the U.S. secretary of defense to withhold the release of documents that are deemed to endanger U.S. personnel.
However in Friday’s ruling, Hellerstein said the U.S. government had provided insufficient justification for attempting to block the release of the photos under the 2009 legislation.
“I found that the certification remained deficient because it was not sufficiently individualized and it did not establish the [defense] secretary’s own basis for concluding that disclosure would endanger Americans,” Hellerstein wrote.
The order could see the release of around 2,000 photos according to the ACLU. The exact content of the images is not known, but a government brief filed earlier in the court case said several photos showed “soldiers pointing pistols or rifles at the heads of hooded or handcuffed detainees.”
The ACLU’s deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer welcomed Friday’s ruling.
“The photos are crucial to the public record,” Jaffer said.
“The Obama administration’s rationale for suppressing the photos is both illegitimate and dangerous.
“To allow the government to suppress any image that might provoke someone, somewhere, to violence would be to give the government sweeping power to suppress evidence of its own agents’ misconduct.”
US soldiers were implicated in the torture and sexual humiliation 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.
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.
Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Myles Caggins said the Defense Department was “studying the judge’s ruling and will make any additional responses through court filings.”
Abu Ghraib torture suit revived by U.S. courtA U.S. federal appeals court reinstated a lawsuit against a defense contractor accusing its employees of torturing detainees at the Iraqi prison. Middle East
Iraq shuts Abu Ghraib jail over security fearsJustice Minister Hassan Shammari says 2,400 inmates arrested or sentenced for terrorism-related offences have been transferred to other facilities Middle East
Abu Ghraib culture in ‘liberated’ Iraq continuesThe “new Iraq” has solidified a culture of impunity that holds nothing sacred Middle East
Iraq gunmen launch deadly attack on Abu Ghraib and Taji prisonsAn attack by armed men on two prisons in Baghdad on Sunday night was foiled by Iraqi security forces, the interior ministry said. The attack on ... Middle East
Ex-Abu Ghraib inmates get 5 million settlement over abuseA defense contractor whose subsidiary was accused of conspiring to torture Abu Ghraib prisoners has settled with 71 former inmates for $5 million. U.S ... News