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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

American Forces Press Service

Commanders in Iraq Ordered Humane Treatment of Detainees

By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 20, 2004 - The U.S. general in command of operations in Iraq repeatedly ordered humane treatment of detainees, he told senators here May 19.

At least three times, in September and October 2003 and in May 2004, Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez "issued interrogation policies that reiterated the application of the Geneva Conventions and required that all interrogations be conducted in the lawful and humane manner with command oversight," Sanchez said in sworn testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Sanchez, commander of Multinational Force Iraq; Army Gen. John Abizaid, commander of U.S. Central Command; and Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, deputy commander for detainee operations, appeared before the committee. They attempted to disabuse the allegation that abuses at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison characterized systemic abuse of detainees held by U.S. forces in Iraq.

"Respect for the rule of law has been a guiding principle for my command. There is no doubt that the law of war, including the Geneva Conventions, apply to our operations in Iraq," Sanchez said. "This includes interrogations."

In addition to his guidance on interrogation procedures, Sanchez said, in October 2003 he issued a memorandum to all coalition personnel titled, "Proper Treatment of Iraqi People During Combat Operations." He reissued this memo Jan. 16, 2004, he said.

Another policy memo, "Proper Conduct During Combat Operations," emphasized "the need to treat all Iraqis with dignity and respect," Sanchez said. The general said he issued this memo twice, as well, in March and April of this year, with specific guidelines directing distribution down to the "individual-soldier level."

During the hearing, Sanchez read aloud the last paragraph of this memo: "Respect for others, humane treatment of all persons, and adherence to the law of war and rules of engagement is a matter of discipline and values. It is what separates us from our enemies. I expect all leaders to reinforce this message."

He called this "an accurate summary of my standards and expectations."

Sanchez also addressed why he put the commander of a military intelligence brigade in charge of operations at Abu Ghraib prison, a move strongly criticized in an investigative report by Army Maj. Gen. Antonio Taguba.

Sanchez said he never intended for military intelligence officers to be responsible for day-to-day detainee operations in the prison. The order putting Col. Thomas Pappas, commander of 205th Military Intelligence Brigade, in charge at Abu Ghraib was intended only to make Pappas responsible for "defense of that forward operating base."

"All of the other responsibilities for continuing to run the prison, for logistics, training, discipline, and the conduct of the (military police officers), remained with the 800th (Military Police) Brigade commander," he said.

Sanchez also said that Army Brig. Gen. Janice Karpinski, commander of the 800th Brigade, had not shared any objections to the order with him.


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