News and Music Discovery
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

It appears abuse by Americans at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison is largely forgotten


Earlier this year, we brought you the story of Talib al-Majli, who was detained at the notorious Abu Ghraib prison. He detailed the abuse he says he suffered at the hands of U.S. troops there after the invasion of Iraq. Now, some 20 years after the allegations and images of widespread torture and abuse in Abu Ghraib were first made public, a further investigation by Human Rights Watch following NPR's report could find no evidence that the U.S. government has compensated or even offered to help victims. NPR's Ruth Sherlock has this report.

RUTH SHERLOCK, BYLINE: The images of detainees naked and leashed like dogs and forced into other degrading positions by U.S. soldiers shocked the American public and harmed America's reputation around the world. But in all the furore that followed, it seems the actual victims of the abuse at Abu Ghraib were forgotten.


TALIB AL-MAJLI: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: In March, from his home in a Baghdad slum, a former detainee, Talib al-Majli, told us of his experiences.


MAJLI: (Through interpreter) They torturing us. They making us naked. Sometimes, they threw that sound grenades on our cells. And sometimes, they use the shotguns. And they killed two of prisoners. And they used these dogs to terrifying us. They flooded our cells with water.

SHERLOCK: Majli says he was one of the men forced into a grotesque human pyramid of naked detainees and photographed as U.S. soldiers posed beside them. These experiences have left him traumatized. He bites at his skin still, a nervous tic. He's barely able to work.


MAJLI: (Speaking Arabic).

SHERLOCK: For years, he's searched for compensation from the U.S. When the photos showing the abuse of detainees were published in 2004, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld told Congress compensating the victims was, quote, "the right thing to do." But as Sarah Sanbar from Human Rights Watch says, the right thing wasn't done.

SARAH SANBAR: Apparently, the U.S. government hasn't paid any compensation or other forms of redress.

SHERLOCK: This was their finding after months spent examining government documents following NPR's report on Majli. Sanbar says the Department of Defense didn't respond to their repeated inquiries. So what does this mean for the victims?

SANBAR: There's still no way that survivors can have their cases heard.

SHERLOCK: Ruth Sherlock, NPR News, Rome.

(SOUNDBITE OF JK BEATBOOK'S "ROSES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Ruth Sherlock is an International Correspondent with National Public Radio. She's based in Beirut and reports on Syria and other countries around the Middle East. She was previously the United States Editor for the Daily Telegraph, covering the 2016 US election. Before moving to the US in the spring of 2015, she was the Telegraph's Middle East correspondent.