August 03, 2011
Afghanistan “Kill Team” Whistleblower Plea Renews Calls for Report Release
Washington, DC – In the wake of news that the U.S. soldier who first reported civilian murders carried out by a group of American soldiers in Afghanistan has reached a plea agreement for his role in the crimes, Human Rights First today renewed calls for the Army to make public its 700 page report based on Army Brigadier General Stephen Twitty’s investigation into this so-called “kill team.” The group notes that the Army’s report may shed new light on whether any officers in the chain of command could or should be held accountable for actions of their subordinates. Reports in Rolling Stone and The New York Times indicate that officers in the chain of command knew about the crimes and took no action. “We support the Army’s prosecution of those directly connected to the gruesome murders of innocent civilians in Afghanistan” said Human Rights First’s Dixon Osburn. “The Army, though, should make public the conclusions of the Army Inspector General review of the incidents, and announce whether disciplinary action will be taken against anyone in the chain of command who knew or should have known about the grave misconduct of those in their command.” In addition to seeking clarification on chain of command responsibility, Human Rights First notes that Brigadier General Twitty’s investigation may not have covered all allegations of civilian murders. According to The New York Times, there are four additional civilian deaths that were reported up the chain of command but never investigated or prosecuted. The release of the Army report would be an important step in establishing the scope of BG Twitty’s investigation. Congressional hearings would also be an appropriate measure of ensuring accountability. According to a special report published earlier this year by Rolling Stone, the “kill team” – a faction of soldiers in the Army’s 5th Striker Brigade – allegedly murdered unarmed farmers, a mentally disabled civilian and old men for sport. The soldiers allegedly cut off their victims’ fingers and plucked teeth from their heads as trophies after the murders. News coverage notes that the “kill team” tried hiding their tracks by placing illegally procured weapons next to the corpses to make it appear that the civilians had been engaged in combat and pressured fellow soldiers to keep quiet, even assaulting one soldier who broke confidence. Though they hid evidence from their commanders, like the prison guards at Abu Ghraib, they catalogued their kills in photos and videos. In April, Human Rights First sent a letter to Army Secretary John McHugh asking that the Army’s report detailing its investigation into the crimes be made public. To date, the report remains classified.