For Immediate Release: March 21, 2006
Verdict Makes Clear Using Dogs to Threaten Detainees Strictly Prohibited
Human Rights First Calls for Senior Command to Be Held Accountable for Ordering and Tolerating Abuse
NEW YORK – “This verdict sends a powerful message that abusive interrogation techniques using unmuzzled dogs to terrify detainees is strictly prohibited,” said Human Rights First attorney Avi Cover. “Sergeant Smith’s court martial made clear that there is more than enough blame to go around, with high ranking officers and civilian command yet to be held to account for their role in these widespread instances of abuse.”
Said Cover: “There have been prosecutions going down the chain of the command but not going up. It’s not enough to prosecute the people who were following orders. If the U.S. Government is serious about stopping this illegal and immoral abuse, then we need to take seriously the prospect of putting the people who were giving the orders on trial – Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, commander of prison operations at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, among others – and independently investigate the role of civilian command beginning in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.”
Cover and HRF Attorney Jean Aylward have been closely following this case and monitored the trial of Sgt. Smith at Ft. Meade. You can read their blog at: /2006/03/23/more-on-smiths-sentence/
Human Rights First recently released the landmark report “Command’s Responsibility” (/our-work/law-and-security/end-torture/commands-responsibility-detainee-deaths-in-u-s-custody-in-iraq-and-afghanistan/), which provided 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. The report called for high-ranking officials to be held accountable for the abuses and deaths that have occurred under their command. Both U.S. and international law provide that commanders are responsible for the acts of their subordinates. Under the doctrine of “command responsibility,” the commander is responsible for crimes directly ordered, as well as for crimes committed by subordinates when the commander knew or should have known they were going on but failed to prevent or punish them.