Feb. 2006 / 130 pp.
Human Rights First’s new report,”Command’s Responsibility: Deaths in U.S. Custody in Iraq and Afghanistan,” provides the first comprehensive accounting of the U.S. government’s handling of the nearly 100 cases of detainees who have died in U.S. custody since 2002. In its report, Human Rights First looked at some of the most troubling abuse cases, including up to 12 cases in which people were tortured to death. The report found that flawed investigations and a lack of punishment, especially at the highest levels, has lead to a culture of impunity on abuse.
Despite the number of deaths of prisoners in U.S. custody, as of February 2006, only 12 detainee deaths have resulted in any kind of punishment for any U.S. official, military or civilian. The report finds that often the more serious the case – particularly those involving people tortured to death – the less severe the punishment; the highest sentence in a torture-related death is five months in prison. Based on this, Human Rights First concluded that a gap exists between policies leadership says it respects on paper, and behavior it actually tolerates in practice.