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New Prison-Abuse Allegations Surface In Iraq

  • Frank Csongos --> (file photo) Washington, 16 July 2004 (RFE/RL) -- The chairman of the U.S. Senate Armed Services Committee has said that Congress is looking into new cases of alleged mistreatment of Iraqi prisoners.

Republican Senator John Warner of Virginia said his panel plans to hold a hearing next week on the U.S. military's prison-abuse scandal in Iraq. Warner said the hearing will focus on the status of the Pentagon investigations into the abuse incidents.

Warner's committee held a closed-door, classified briefing yesterday. Afterward, the senator told reporters that lawmakers are still uncovering newly reported mistreatment allegations by he U.S. military involving detainees. Warner did not give any specifics and said the facts are still unclear. The veteran senator said Congress is not in a position yet to have an independent investigation.

The Senate panel has held three public hearings on the prison-abuse cases since May. Witnesses summoned to testify included Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and other high-ranking officials.

The controversy erupted about three months ago after pictures surfaced in the media showing naked, hooded, and mistreated Iraqi prisoners. The abused prisoners were being detained by the U.S. military at the Abu Ghurayb facility near Baghdad.

U.S. President George W. Bush and his top aides have said the abuse scandal was not representative of how the U.S. military treats prisoners of war. Both Bush and Rumsfeld have pledged a full investigation into the incidents.

Warner said he is confident those who are guilty will be brought to justice. "No stone is being left unturned as the Department of Defense and, to some extent, the Department of Justice are looking at this situation to determine what happened, how it happened, who is accountable, and how, most importantly, it can never happen again," he said.

Warner said he would like to have L. Paul Bremer, the former U.S. administrator in Iraq, testify at the upcoming hearing. "I'm hoping to have a hearing open next week with a particularly very important witness if we can arrange for him to appear," he said. "He has some knowledge on this subject -- that's Ambassador Bremer."

The Senate panel also heard reports yesterday concerning access of prisoners to the International Committee of the Red Cross. The Red Cross says it suspects it has been prevented from having access to many detainees. Under international law, prisoners of war cannot be mistreated and are entitled to visits by the Red Cross.