BAGHDAD -- The deaths of 10 prisoners and abuse of 10 more in Iraq and Afghanistan, are under criminal investigation, the Army disclosed yesterday. US commanders in Baghdad announced changes in the way inmates are interrogated.
The new commander of US-run prisons in Iraq said he would cut in half the number of Iraqis in the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. The military said it was ordering troops to use blindfolds instead of hoods and interrogators to get permission before depriving inmates of sleep -- one of the most common techniques reported by freed Iraqis.
Among other developments yesterday, one week after the publication of devastating details of Iraqis suffering physical and sexual abuse at the hands of US soldiers:
The Army said one soldier had been court-martialed for using excessive force in shooting to death an Iraqi prisoner last September. The soldier was reduced in rank and dismissed from the Army, an official said.
The Army also disclosed that it had referred to the Justice Department a homicide case involving a CIA contract interrogator alleged to be responsible for the death of an Iraqi prisoner last November. That death was at Abu Ghraib prison, notorious during Saddam Hussein's rule for torture and killing and now the focus of global outrage over US mistreatment.
Major General Geoffrey Miller, former commander of the US prison at Guantanamo Bay, said his changes to interrogation techniques were aimed at getting "the maximum amount of intelligence" while treating prisoners in a humane manner. He said he would cut the number of inmates at Abu Ghraib to fewer than 2,000 from the current 3,800.
The US-led coalition has about a dozen prisons around Iraq holding a total of 7,000 to 8,000 inmates. The Abu Ghraib, on the western edge of Baghdad, is at the center of reports that American guards abused Iraqi prisoners. Some officials have warned the prison is overcrowded.
The Knight Ridder news agency reported that scores of prisoners were released from Abu Ghraib prison yesterday and forced to take a winding, nearly five-hour journey through central Iraq on three buses escorted by US military Humvees, before being deposited without explanation in the middle of a gravel quarry near Hussein's hometown of Tikrit.
It was unclear why the detainees, at least 100 of them, were dropped off at the remote location 120 miles north of Baghdad.
US military officials didn't respond to several requests for comment about the way detainees were released yesterday
Over the summer, Miller led a team of 30 specialists who investigated -- and changed -- interrogation methods used in US-run prisons in Iraq.
Miller's investigation at Abu Ghraib is one of three ordered by Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez, the top US commander in Iraq, in response to alleged abuses by US Military Police, their commanders, and interrogators. Six soldiers have been charged and six more received stiff reprimands.
Miller took over as head of the prison last month after the previous chief, Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, was suspended amid investigations into the claims of abuse.
Iraq's US-appointed human rights minister, Abdul-Basat al-Turki, said he had resigned to protest the alleged abuses, and the interior minister demanded that Iraqi officials be allowed to help run the prisons. And another Iraqi human rights official, Mohammed al-Musawi, said he doesn't trust the US military to police its own conduct.
His group, the Human Rights Organization in Iraq, demanded that its investigators and other rights advocates be allowed to visit Iraqi prisoners. Musawi said US soldiers who violate international human rights law should be handed over to Iraqi courts.
Although the military has been loath to discuss the methods it uses to convince -- or coerce -- prisoners to divulge information, a pattern of techniques has emerged from about 100 former Iraqi prisoners who spoke to Musawi's group. Based on their descriptions, the military's chief aim appears to be to humiliate prisoners or make them physically uncomfortable in order to get information.
Methods allegedly include jolts from cattle prods or stun guns, described to Musawi by at least 10 Iraqi prisoners as "electric sticks." Beatings were said to be routine.
Meanwhile, Britain's government said it has reached no conclusions about the authenticity of pictures that purportedly show British soldiers abusing a hooded Iraqi prisoner