Documents released by Human Rights Watch show that Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion routinely beat Afghan detainees at Bagram Airbase before moving on to Iraq to establish the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib.
Two Afghan prisoners who died in American custody in Afghanistan in December 2002 were chained to the ceiling, kicked and beaten by American soldiers in sustained assaults that caused their deaths, according to Army criminal investigative reports that have not yet been made public.
One soldier, Pfc. Willie V. Brand, was charged with manslaughter in a closed hearing last month in Texas in connection with one of the deaths, another Army document shows. Private Brand, who acknowledged striking a detainee named Dilawar 37 times, was accused of having maimed and killed him over a five-day period by “destroying his leg muscle tissue with repeated unlawful knee strikes.”
The attacks on Mr. Dilawar were so severe that “even if he had survived, both legs would have had to be amputated,” the Army report said, citing a medical examiner.
Among those implicated in the killings at Bagram were members of Company A of the 519th Military Intelligence Battalion, from Fort Bragg, N.C. The battalion went on to Iraq, where some members established the interrogation unit at Abu Ghraib and have been implicated in some abuses there.
The reports, from the Army Criminal Investigation Command, also make clear that the abuse at Bagram went far beyond the two killings. Among those recommended for prosecution is an Army military interrogator from the 519th Battalion who is said to have “placed his penis along the face” of one Afghan detainee and later to have “simulated anally sodomizing him (over his clothes).”
The Army reports cited “credible information” that four military interrogators assaulted Mr. Dilawar and another Afghan prisoner with “kicks to the groin and leg, shoving or slamming him into walls/table, forcing the detainee to maintain painful, contorted body positions during interview and forcing water into his mouth until he could not breathe.”
American military officials in Afghanistan initially said the deaths of Mr. Habibullah, in an isolation cell on Dec. 4, 2002, and Mr. Dilawar, in another such cell six days later, were from natural causes. Lt. Gen. Daniel K. McNeill, the American commander of allied forces in Afghanistan at the time, denied then that prisoners had been chained to the ceiling or that conditions at Bagram endangered the lives of prisoners.
But after an investigation by The New York Times, the Army acknowledged that the deaths were homicides.
[A]mong those mentioned in the new reports is Capt. Carolyn A. Wood, the chief military intelligence officer at Bagram. The reports conclude that Captain Wood lied to investigators by saying that shackling prisoners in standing positions was intended to protect interrogators from harm. In fact, the report says, the technique was used to inflict pain and sleep deprivation.
Captain Wood, who commanded Company A in Afghanistan, later helped to establish the interrogation and debriefing center at Abu Ghraib. Two Defense Department reports have said that a list of interrogation procedures she drew up there, which went beyond those approved by Army commanders, may have contributed to abuses at Abu Ghraib.