The hearings on the case of abuse of Guantanamo and Abu Ghraib prisoners started in the USA. The scandal started several years ago, when several excerpts of video footage depicting tortures of prisoners were distributed by the media all over the world. The tapes were subsequently destroyed. However, the videos made it obvious that the prisoners were tortured through sleep deprivation, sexual humiliation and drowning.
The trial may have launched another major scandal. It was revealed that US military men were abusing not only the prisoners, but their own fellow soldiers too. It was an experiment they arranged to find out how a US soldier would behave in case he becomes a captor of the Iraqis. US servicemen were particularly exposed to sleep and light deprivation and imitation of drowning. There is a whole training program called S.E.R.E. – Survival, Evasion, Resistance, Escape – which provides military personnel, Department of Defense civilians, and contractors with training in the Code of Conduct, survival skills, evading capture, recovery and dealing with captivity.
The Pentagon does not acknowledge the use of tortures. The US administration believes that the used methods do not go beyond the limits of necessary pressure. They were authorized by Donald Rumsfeld at the end of 2002, who took the position of the US Defense secretary at the time.
Several US, French and German human rights groups sued Rumsfeld in 2005 and then in 2007. Human rights activists wanted the official to carry responsibility for the prisoner abuse in US jails outside the USA.
The hearings may seriously undermine the reputation of presidential runoffs Barack Obama and John McCain. Borht of them deny the facts of excessive brutality used against prisoners. However, Obama stands for the withdrawal of troops form Ira, whereas McCain supports the idea of continuing the campaign.
In November 2006, the former US Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, in-charge of Abu Ghraib prison until early 2004, told Spain's El Pais newspaper she had seen a letter apparently signed by Donald Rumsfeld which allowed civilian contractors to use techniques such as sleep deprivation during interrogation. "The methods consisted of making prisoners stand for long periods, sleep deprivation ... playing music at full volume, having to sit in uncomfortably ... Rumsfeld authorized these specific techniques." She said that this was contrary to the Geneva Convention and quoted the same "Prisoners of war who refuse to answer may not be threatened, insulted, or exposed to any unpleasant or disadvantageous treatment of any kind". According to Karpinski, the handwritten signature was above his printed name and in the same handwriting in the margin was written: "Make sure this is accomplished". There have been no comments from either the Pentagon or US Army spokespeople in Iraq on Karpinski's accusations.
Karpinski has been exposed for lying to the media in order to cover up the abuses in the first place. On October 2003, when allegations of torture in the new Iraqi prisons began to surface, Karpinski insisted that prisoners under her watch were treated "humanely and fairly". In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times in December 2003, Karpinski said conditions in the prison were even better than many Iraqi homes, and joked that the prisoners were treated so well that she was "concerned they wouldn't want to leave.”
In January 2004, the details of her misconduct began to become known. Lieutenant General Ricardo Sanchez formally suspended Karpinski and sixteen other soldiers with undisclosed reprimands. An investigation was started into the abuse, and Karpinski left Iraq for reasons that were explained at the time as part of "routine troop rotations". She was later demoted to the rank of colonel for her negligence in this case.