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Military "Justice"

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Pentagon wont prosecute GIs over prisoners deaths
3/26/2005 8:30:00 PM GMT

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U.S. army commanders decided not to prosecute 17 GI's implicated in the death of detainees.

Despite Army investigators recommendations, U.S. army commanders have decided not to prosecute 17 U.S. soldiers implicated in the deaths of three prisoners in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2003 and 2004, according to a new accounting released Friday by the Army.

According to the Army Criminal Investigation Command's accounting, investigators had recommended that all 17 soldiers be charged in the cases which included charges of murder, conspiracy and negligent homicide.

None of the 17 will face any prosecution but one did receive a 'letter of reprimand' and another was discharged after the investigations.

In one of the three cases in which no charges are to be filed, the commanders determined the death to be "a result of a series of lawful applications of force." In the second, the commanders decided not to prosecute due to "lack of evidence" and in the third case it was determined the soldier involved had not been well informed of the rules of engagement.

A spokesman for the Army Criminal Investigation Command, Chris Grey, said in a statement: "We take each and every death very seriously and are committed and sworn to investigating each case with the utmost professionalism and thoroughness. We are equally determined to get to the truth wherever the evidence may lead us and regardless of how long it takes."

However, human rights groups and others have criticized the military for not pursuing prosecution more aggressively.

The accounting was the most detailed the military has yet made public of the deaths of prisoners in American custody in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Of the 28 deaths investigated, 13 occurred in American detention centers in Iraq and Afghanistan and 15 occurred at the point where prisoners were captured. Only one occurred in the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, which until now has been believed of being the site with the most extensive abuses by American military personnel.

The 28 deaths include two cases involving members of the Navy Seals, currently under investigation by the Navy.

According to a Marine spokesman, another case involving a prisoner who was in the custody of the Marine Corps; his death resulted in the conviction of two marines on charges including assault and dereliction of duty.

Not included in the 28 are three other deaths of prisoners involving marines but under investigation by the Navy.

With the disposition of the three cases involving the 17 soldiers not prosecuted, the Army now has 21 soldiers listed as subjects for prosecution on criminal charges including, among others, murder, negligent homicide and assault.

Of those 21 soldiers, at least 3 have been convicted in general courts-martial, and at least 3 others are awaiting trial, the Army accounting showed.

The Army said one of the three deaths for which soldiers would not be prosecuted was that of a former Iraqi lieutenant colonel determined by investigators to have died of "blunt force injuries and asphyxia" at an American Forward Operating Base in Al Asad, Iraq, in January 2004.

In that case, Army investigators had recommended that 11 soldiers from the Fifth Special Forces Group and the Third Armored Cavalry Regiment face charges. The decision not to prosecute in that case, as well as one other, was made by the Army Special Forces Command at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the Army said.

The decision not to prosecute came even as a senior Army legal official acknowledged that the Iraqi colonel at one point had been lifted to his feet by a baton held to his throat, an action that had caused a throat injury which contributed to his death.

The former Iraqi colonel was not identified but was named Jameel in other reports.

The Army accounting said the Special Forces Command had determined that the use of force had been lawful simply because it was "in response to repeated aggression and misconduct by the detainee."

According to the senior Army legal official the prisoner's resistance towards the U.S. soldiers caused them to gag him and lift him to his feet with the baton, - the actions which contributed to the death.

While the case which commanders deemed to lack evidence involved the shooting death of a prisoner in Afghanistan in August 2002, the Army said.

The case not prosecuted because the soldier involved was allegedly "not well informed on the rules of engagement" resulted in the death of the Iraqi prisoner in September 2003 at an American detention center.

The Army said it has now closed its investigations into 16 of the deaths, and referred five of them to the Navy, the Justice Department or foreign governments for possible prosecution.