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UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
30 January 2006

AFGHANISTAN: US soldier found guilty of prisoner abuse

KABUL, 30 Jan 2006 (IRIN) - A court martial has found a US serviceman in Afghanistan guilty of mistreating detainees and sentenced him to four months detention, the US military said on Saturday.

"Sentencing was announced yesterday in Bagram airfield in the court martial of a US soldier accused of punching detainees in the chest, arms and shoulders at a forward operating base in Oruzgan province, Afghanistan, in July," the US military said in a press release.

James Hayes was found guilty on one count of conspiracy to maltreat and two counts of maltreatment. He was sentenced to a reduction in rank to private, total forfeiture of all pay and allowances for four months and confinement for four months, according to the US army statement.

“The command takes this matter very seriously,” said Marine Lt Col Bob Fifer, chief of criminal justice for Combined Joint Task Force 76. “This incident was initially reported through the chain of command by soldiers who displayed a great sense of duty and integrity.”

“Hayes is one of two soldiers accused of striking two detainees. A second soldier involved in this incident will undergo a court martial on 30 January,” the US military noted in its statement.

Washington has been cleaning up its act abroad since damning evidence of prisoner abuse at its detention centre at Abu Ghraib in Baghdad and allegations of abuse at the US detention centre at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Human rights groups and former detainees have criticised the US military for also abusing prisoners in Afghanistan.

“Despite receiving 113 complaints of human rights violations at the hands of US-led coalition forces over the past year [2005], the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) continues to be denied access to coalition detention centres,” the AIHRC said in its annual report in December.

The US military denies any widespread abuse of detainees in Afghanistan and emphasised that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has access to all US military-run detention centres in Afghanistan and that the rights of detainees were being respected.

In 2002, two Afghans died in the US military prison at Bagram, 50 km north of Kabul, the headquarters of the 20,000-strong US-led coalition force based in Afghanistan.

Some 500 Afghans, according to the US military, are currently being detained in its holding facilities, charged with having links with the Taliban and Al-Qaeda movements.


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