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IN THE NEWS - Prisoner Abuse in Iraq

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This is Steve Ember with IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English.

President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld apologized this week for the treatment of Iraqi prisoners in Baghdad. Mister Bush said he was sorry for the suffering caused to the prisoners and their families by the actions of American soldiers.

The President made the comments Thursday after meeting with King Abdullah of Jordan at the White House. Mister Bush said he told the King that the pictures from the Abu Ghraib prison made Americans sick. In his words, "the wrongdoers will be brought to justice."

The pictures that have appeared in the media include those of prisoners without clothing. Some of the men are tied to each other in sexual positions. People in the United States and around the world have denounced the treatment. In Washington, the House of Representatives this week passed a resolution deploring the actions of the soldiers involved.

As of now, six members of the Army are facing criminal charges that could result in a military trial. There also are questions about the activities of privately employed civilians used by the Army. Some assist in questioning prisoners for intelligence.

Mister Rumsfeld told Senators Friday that he accepted full responsibility. The Defense Secretary said he was seeking a way to help those prisoners who suffered. He said they suffered at the hands of a few members of the United States armed forces.

Mister Rumsfeld said the Army began an investigation in January as soon as one soldier reported wrong-doing at the prison. He said he first learned about the investigation when the Army announced it in January. He said the Army then told the world more details in March.

The now former government of Iraq had used the Abu Ghraib prison to torture Iraqis. Senator Edward Kennedy noted that the International Committee of the Red Cross had earlier compared actions by Americans at the prison to torture. Mister Rumsfeld said the Red Cross report had helped Army generals begin to make what he called corrections at the prison.

Graphic Image
Graphic Image

The pictures were included in a secret report written by Army Major General Antonio Taguba. His investigators seized them from guards at the prison. Mister Rumsfeld said he did not see the pictures, except those already released by the media, until late this week. He said someone gave them to the media illegally. C-B-S television first broadcast some of the pictures last week. The Washington Post newspaper published more on Thursday.

President Bush said his defense secretary should have told him about the pictures. But he said Mister Rumsfeld is an important part of his cabinet and will stay in his job.

Also this week, American officials said twenty-five prisoners had died in Iraq and Afghanistan since two-thousand-two. They said two deaths have been ruled criminal acts by soldiers. Officials say they continue to investigate ten of the deaths.

IN THE NEWS, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.

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