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More than 100 court martials for mistreatment in Iraq, Afghanistan: US

10 May, 2006

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GENEVA: The United States has held 103 courts martial following investigations into allegations of mistreatment of detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan, a US official told the UN’s top anti-torture body Monday.

Another 170 investigations are still under way, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Charles Stimson said during Washington’s first appearance before the UN Committee on Torture since President George W. Bush unleashed a "war on terror".

US officials challenged a limited survey released by the advocacy group Human Rights Watch during the hearing.

"To date there have been 103 courts martial, 89 service members were convicted which represents an 86-percent conviction rate," Stimpson told the panel of 10 legal experts.

Stimpson did not state exactly where the detainees were held but insisted that official attempts to root out torture and mistreatment among troops deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan were more extensive than human rights groups had revealed.

Nineteen of the convictions involved sentences of at least one year, while 28 servicemen or women were thrown out of the US military, he added.

They include a string of prosecutions following revelations in 2004 of mistreament of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison.

Human Rights Watch’s survey covered publicly available information about 600 investigations that resulted in 54 courts martial for mistreatment and 40 sentences, relating to Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The United States delegation reiterated that the use of torture or cruel, inhumane and degrading treatment by the US military or intelligence services was outlawed, wherever they may be operating.

The UN committee, made up of legal experts, regularly reviews the record of the 141 countries that have ratified the Convention Against Torture.

It has little power except to highlight or criticise problems that it decides need correcting.

Following Monday’s final session on the United States, the panel’s findings are expected to be released on May 19.

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