Abu Ghraib Dog Handler Convicted; Role Of Commanders In Setting Policies That Lead to Abuses Still Not Addressed
The court martial of Army dog handler Sgt. Santos A. Cardona, which concluded today with a guilty verdict on charges of dereliction of duty and assault, was yet another example of a low-level soldier shouldering the blame for abuse of prisoners in U.S. custody in Iraq.
“It’s important to hold people like Sgt. Cardona accountable for breaking the law, but those at the top of the chain of command have to be held responsible for authorizing violations,” said Human Rights First’s Senior Counsel Hina Shamsi, who monitored the trial at Fort Meade, Maryland. “The evidence presented at the court martial showed that the original idea to use dogs on detainees was approved at high levels of command. Yet, in the court martials to date, the overwhelming majority facing prosecution for this and other abuses are low-level soldiers,”
The court martial occurred at a critical time, as the long-delayed revisions to the Army Field Manual on Interrogation are debated. Human Rights First is advocating for these revisions to fully reflect the McCain Amendment, which prohibits torture and cruel treatment and demands a clear, uniform set of standards.
“The defense in this case did a good job of painting the confusion on the ground at Abu Ghraib about what interrogation techniques were and were not permissible,” said Shamsi. “Court martials like this demonstrate that the rules have to be crystal clear. If the new Army Field Manual fails to set out uniform interrogation techniques that comply with the McCain Amendment in all situations and all places, you can be certain that abuses like these will continue to occur.”
Human Rights First has been closely monitoring this case since the charges were first made against Sgt. Cardona, and Shamsi’s blog from the proceedings is available at:
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