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U.S. Iraq Prisons Commander Announces Reforms

(archive photo) 5 May 2004 -- The new U.S. commander overseeing U.S. military-run prisons in Iraq has announced reforms of prisoner treatment in the wake of the broadcast of images showing Iraqi detainees being physically and sexually humiliated by U.S. soldiers.

Major General Geoffrey Miller said U.S. troops have stopped putting hoods over the heads of detainees and now instead place bandages or goggles over their eyes.

He also said the use of interrogation tactics such as sleep deprivation or forcing detainees to sit or stand in uncomfortable positions must now be approved by an upper-level officer.

Miller, who previously commanded the U.S. military prison for terrorist suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, said U.S. authorities are planning to reduce the number of prisoners at the Abu Ghurayb prison near Bahgdad. However, he did not make clear whether the reduction would be carried out by freeing prisoners or transferring them to other facilities. About 3,800 prisoners are currently held at Abu Ghurayb.

Meanwhile, U.S. national security adviser Condoleezza Rice has apologized to the Arab world for the abuse of Iraqi detainees by American troops. She issued the apology in an interview on the United Arab Emirates-based Al-Arabiyah television network.

Rice said the United States is "deeply sorry" for what happened to the prisoners and regrets the humiliation caused to the detainees and their families. She called the abuse "unacceptable" and pledged that the United States would find and punish those reponsible.

Earlier, U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said the actions of soldiers depicted in photographs seen around the world as abusing Iraqi detainees were "totally unacceptable and un-American." "The actions of the soldiers in those photographs are totally unacceptable and un-American," he said. "Any who engaged in such action let down their comrades who serve honorably each day, and they let down their country."

Rumsfeld pledged investigators would probe the cases vigorously and bring the wrong-doers to justice.

U.S. defense officials also disclosed Tuesday that 25 prisoners have died in the custody of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officials said investigations had found that two of the dead were murdered by Americans, while one of the deaths was ruled to have been a justifiable homicide. Twelve of the cases have been closed, with the cause of death ruled undetermined or of natural causes. Ten cases remain under investigation.

(AP/AFP/dpa/Reuters/"The Washington Post")