17 avril 2011 – Human rights first
It’s Abu Ghraib, all over again.
One year ago, American soldiers deployed to Afghanistan formed “kill teams” to murder innocent Afghan civilians. They collected “trophies” by cutting off a finger of the victim.
According to a recent special report in Rolling Stone Magazine, a faction of soldiers in the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company planned and executed the murders of unarmed farmers, old men, and a mentally disabled civilian for pure sport. They tried hiding their tracks by placing illegally procured weapons next to the corpses to make it appear that the civilians had been engaged in combat. The soldiers pressured fellow soldiers to keep quiet, even assaulting one soldier who broke confidence. They hid evidence from their commanders. But, like the prison guards at Abu Ghraib, they also catalogued their kills in photos and videos: gleeful soldiers posing next to the stripped and mangled bodies of their targets.
The photos, many of which were eventually distributed to soldiers in other units, have now gone viral for the world to see. Der Spiegel has published three of over 4,000 photos and videos taken by the men. The Guardian is reporting that senior NATO officials in Kabul are concerned that the graphics are “even more damaging” than the notorious detainee abuse photos of Abu Ghraib.
The UN and other international organizations operating in Afghanistan ordered lock-downs in advance of the photos’ publication, fearing a spate of violent protests similar to the reaction to the Abu Ghraib photos in 2004. The Army issued a news release stating that the photos are “repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States Army.” The release also affirms that “when allegations of wrongdoing by soldiers surface, to include the inappropriate treatment of the dead, they are fully investigated.”
The Army conducted an investigation, and initiated courts-martial for the twelve soldiers charged in the case. Five have been charged in connection with the murders, and seven for lesser crimes, such as smoking hashish and assaulting a fellow soldier. One pleaded guilty to murder and was recently sentenced to twenty-four years in prison.
By Dixon Osburn, Director, Law and Security and Emily Sharpe, Legal Intern, Law and Security